Our June Thinking Tank reflected on the rights and wrongs and changing trends in networking – online and offline. More below…
Online networking in particular is on balance seen more as a force for good, encouraging transparency, connectedness and egalitarianism.
- benefits: Egypt
- benefits: an online debate includes a much wider audience not just a handful behind closed doors
- consequences: transparency will become a bigger issue. We must think about what we stand for and live with integrity
- tools: certainly not Facebook. Too much info too easy to grab
USAGE: All participants network more now than 5 years ago, mostly much more. The additional networking is on-line though offline is still used – in a focused and contributory way.
- online platforms are a great tools to get back in touch with people we somehow lost track of
- more efficient use of my professional time, especially with respect to increased time pressure
- Offline I am having more focussed conversations with people I largely know, making the most of relationships that are already solid
BEHAVIOUR: there is not a consensus on how personal behaviour changes online
- I think I am more open, more human, online (SPLIT VOTE)
- still weird to market yourselves almost as a product this way (SPLIT VOTE)
TOOLS: most mentioned is LinkedIn. Feels safer and more professional for the group. Also useful for finding the right people to employ or collaborate with. Facebook seen as much more lightweight – entertainment and gossip, not serious business. Not much twitter yet for these senior managers.
- those profiles on LinkedIn do help to stay in touch or to find people with specific qualifications
- I find twitter the most efficient for developing contnections in a new sphere (SPLIT VOTE)
BENEFITS: The speed of communicating uncensored information has risks but is mostly seen as a benefit. There is a sense that conversations are more direct, fairer, more objective – more productive.
- indeed there is much more social openness in groups on the net then in real life
- Now an idea can gather support, be challenged, be improved, increase awareness and get implemented in a much shorter space of time
- crowdsourcing to generate ideas in any possible fields
- more people can participate.. it creates a new democratice force
- you connect on the basis of shared needs / interests – which makes it easier to set a step towards ‘action’
- more egalitarian in terms of rich/poor countries and individuals. Not just the CEOs and presidents who know the score.
RISKS: there is only half as much support for comments about risks – of course they exist, but they are not seen to be as important as the benefits. There was some concern of risk of fraud and manipulation but not widely supported.
- lack of critical reflection
- fragmentation of focus and shallow analysis
- good people or organisations can get taken down by an online campaign that spreads like wildfire but is just malicious, not true
FUTURE: the majority think that online networking is a game changer and it will make a difference to how we work, how we present ourselves to the world and what we can achieve.
- We are just a the beginning of learning how powerful we can be if we connect
- Surprisingly it is in world of politics that we have witnessed impact the most so far, but this is very new, business will follow with some dramatic changes due to networking
- Maybe the idea of work has to change to reconcile this! [networking/notworking]
- I think we are in a new world: Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Syria are all examples of this new world.
And final word of advice from our posters to all our readers:
- follow your values and don’t post crap
This pdf file contains all the 64 statements that made it to Synthetron (supported) status plus the results of the polls. Interesting to note that 36% of the Synthetrons were originally stated by the same participant – one of you has their finger on the pulse! 1106 The Thinking Tank Networking or Notworking full report
One of the first things I noticed about today’s debate was the poll results. At the beginning each participant rated themselves on a scale of 1-5 how ethical they are. The weighted average was 4.4. At the end of the discussion we took the same poll and scored ourselves as 3.7. As a main premise of Bazerman and Tenbrunsel’s recent book “Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It” is the tendency to turn a blind eye to our own failures to be ethical (like the mice on the right), it seems that the Thinking Tank helped to raise consciousness. It’s a good start.
And some of the well supported statements in our last 5 minutes was a good finish:
- when I tell my wife what I was doing all this time on my pc I shall answer, I was working on how to make the world a little better
- Thank you very much- I think we learned quite a lot due to our anonymous discussion…….
What we need to be ethical
We generally agreed that ethics were necessary and standards should be met. But how? The 2 strongest statements in the debate were both about what support we need to be ethical:
- a clear set of values
- having the guts to risk being unpopular / sacked, having a greater purpose
We also agreed (like Barry Schwartz on TED) that actions speak louder than words:
- it is not about the word but more about the behaviour
- Yes, bringing ethics into everyday life and conversation is a great idea. It cannot be left in theory-land
- ethics is not just a philosophical concept, it is a day to day issue to discuss and bring to life
- It is not sustainable for us to all behave selfishly (often the opposite to ethically). In the end we all suffer
And the actions that the group supported most strongly are:
- I will live and act more closely to my set of values
- I must be on the alert watching the public discussion on ethics, including the role of the churches and our politicians, discussing these items with my family and children
- speak up if I notice unethical behaviour
The ethical problem
We also had a frank discussion about the challenges of ethical behaviour. Although as a group we found it easier to criticise others (child abusers, politicians, high profile business fraudsters) than analyse our own shortfalls, there were some personal admissions:
- So easy to lose touch with reality and believe in your own version of the universe
- The same thing happens with discounters when they mistreat their employees but you go there shopping almost every day
The most common feelings from behaviour falling short of our own ethical standards is guilt
- Feel like I let myself and others down. That I was not enough.
- Feel like I just learnt something and will avoid that mistake next time
- Turning a blind eye is easy in the short term than hard to live with in the long term. I feel like a coward
If this is an issue that interests you and you would like to see a complete list of the 100 statements put forward and evaluated, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us next month? Thurs June 16th, 4-4.45pm UK time. All welcome.
Try this May 31 at 1pm UK time: RSA talk on Jonathan Wolff on #ethics and public life.
In this debate we took a broad look at the challenging area of crime and punishment. Considering reports of high correlations of those in prison and those with dyslexia, communications disorders, child abuse, sexual abuse etc, maybe it is time we reflected on how to address crime in a more integrated way – and we saw more empathy for criminals than the popular press might suggest.
For the first time we ran the discussion at two time slots – afternoon and evening (GMT) to see which worked best. Turn up at the evening slot was very low but we will try it again in the March 17 debate in case that is just a one-off. All the results below are based on the combined debates. All comments are verbatim and got support from at least a third of the group, those in bold had majority support.
Tough on crime and the causes of crime?
The overall attitude towards crime was split with about half the group on the “hang them” side of the spectrum and half on the “heal them” side. There were diverse views about the underlying causes of crime because of this diverse group of participants, but we did agree on:
- lack of community
- sadly enough it is often related to social factors, education, family life, role modelling.. moral values
The view that “there are really bad people out there” split the vote, but there was general agreement that putting all crime in one basket from shop lifting to murder was unhelpful. The Thinking Tank did not feel that it was reasonable to manage these through the same system.
- I am more relaxed about petty crime.. the stolen PC etc is annoyance, but no infringement in my family’s physical safety
- Though crime is always crime I think a clear classification of crime is needed. Also perhaps for really petty crime a better way of dealing with it.
- eg just focus on violent crime / criminals
There was a lot of debate about the possibility of pretty much anybody losing their path and becoming a criminal of some sort. Many did not see criminals as a different species. But there was not enough convergence on this view to generate strongly supported statements other than:
- Criminals come in all ages, ethnic backgrounds, etc.
- I’ve done massage for women prisoners. Very moving (and disturbing) that they are so unused to kindness
There was much more agreement on the positive aspects of criminals, particularly if they are reformed and prepared to communicate about their journeys:
- There are some reformed criminals who make excellent mentors for younger people. They understand how it goes, on the right wavelength, high credibility and a strong message
- indeed my son has been given info from an ex drug addict criminal and this has helped him
- My decorator was an armed bank robber… now he works in the local community centre and tries to discourage young people from making the same choices that he made
- Yes, I think there are examples in lots of communities where criminals have made a positive contribution to society. In terms of peer education, many young people are more likely to listen and take heed from people who have experienced it themselves. It’s much more meaningful and so if they can prevent even one other young person from following a life of crime then that is positive
But this wasn’t enough for everybody and these statements also got support:
- I don’t like the hopelessness of giving up on people but I’m no softie either, I’m a mum of 2 kids … I agree with the comment re life should mean life … but for me that would be a lifetime’s worth of rehab I guess!
- Although I can see many criminals as “victims”, I believe that their real victims are more entitled to attention and fair treatment – which is not trivial
Lastly we discussed ideas for useful action in this area – which focused on prevention and cure rather than punishment.
- Rehabilitation through work: couldn’t prison sentences be turned into useful work ? Doesn’t have to be slavery …
- “I have recently learned how poorly “re-entry” into society is managed. Criminals need to be welcomed back if they are to “”recover”” rather than be treated as outcasts – so they may as well reoffend.
- If criminologists can use their skills to work out who committed a crime, or profile a likely murderer can they not use this insight to help prevent criminals before they are fully developed?
TED talk by Kiran Bedi – the female former Director General of the Indian Police Service who introduced education and meditation for all in one of India’s toughest prisons.
Women in prison. Smart Justice video on youtube
A thoughtful discussion with widespread empathy for the cruelty of homelessness and its impact not just practically but in a wider sense
- it must simply be awful if involuntary
- being homeless would be an extreme vulnerability nowhere to rest
Why does it happen?
There was reflection on the individual’s state of mind and external factors combining to create this situation
- Causes: chaotic life style, inability to cope, loss of job, mental health issues, ill equipped to cope with life (life skills absent) lack of self esteem exacerbating chaos and belief of inability to cope eg forget to pay the rent so evicted
- Cause: discharge from institutions definitely but also loss of financial resources, running away ( yes children but also adults), nowhere to go/maybe thrown out, no resources at all. That said a few do actually choose it.
- I feel sorry for homeless women and children who have had to escape domestic violence
And those who are homeless because their home was destroyed by war or natural disaster
… as well as acceptance of shared responsibility for the issue.
- [we need to] think radically about housing solutions that ignore everything we know and look afresh at the issues
- The practical issues of being homeless seem secondary to the causes (practical or psychological). No point addressing the symptoms and not the cause
No talk of the homeless as a problem to others, begging or other negative issues raised in the popular press. The reaction was much more humane:
- downside: wasted human potential
- downside: children growing up homeless must struggle to ever feel secure / worthwhile
- there is a big moral implication
- downside: home has become associated with personal value. Someone with a big house counts for more than someone with a small house who counts more than someone with no house. A big house is a delight, but doesn’t make a better person
- downside: the children get bullied/miss education and the cycle continues
- temporary = feeling insecure
- [feeling] Damp cold lonely miserable depressed unloved
Benefits of a sense of home
- Home is not a building but a feeling of belonging which is essential to a feeling of wellbeing and worth
- Home is an internal feeling not an external condition
Actions and Ideas
Both personal and political actions were suggested and these are the most supported:
- One evening I took 2 homeless guys on the street to Pizza Hut. They enjoyed the meal but more importantly we all 3 had a great conversation. Gave me a lot of insight and re-humanised the homeless for me.
- Think radically about housing solutions that ignore everything we know and look afresh at the issues
- Lobby government, read widely, school offspring to avoid debt
- Redevelop the concept of govt housing but in a society based context, not just a poverty farm on the fringes of town. Ensure formerly homeless people are properly supported and become part of their new neighbourhood
- Try to separate the wealth / ownership side of housing from the home related issues. eg Allow wealthier people to buy shares in someone else’s home. Not to live there but get some of the benefit of value increase.
- provide homes for people who are made homeless because they have left their previous “home” for good reasons ( abuse, …)
Note that all statements in italics are verbatim comments that received support and little or no opposition from the group. Those in bold had no opposition and the highest level of support.
The last word from one of our participants
- thank you for providing such an important platform and a lively debate.
For further information on this subject see:
- The Big Issue exists to offer homeless and vulnerably housed people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income. http://www.bigissue.org.uk/
- Shelter – help us help who’s next to lose their home. http://www.shelter.org.uk/
- and many others in your country or on twitter (search #homelessness)
A far from peaceful debate, though with slightly more convergence around barriers to peace than we saw regarding desirability or actions for peace.
There were clearly different schools of thought – the peaceniks and the economists for one.
The most strongly supported statements throughout the discussion was about the challenge of peace (less appealing than polarity):
- It brings focus to be against something. A sense of unity. Easier to agree on what we hate than what we love
Building on the earlier statement:
- Polarity give us a feeling of safety or of “righteousness” it is clearer to see what one stands for.
As a new feature we had “guest” participants – relevant quotes from a range of well known people. Not all of them went down well, but top performers were
- “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” Peace Pilgrim
- “Without conflict, there is no progress or change.” Marx
- “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” Nelson Mandela
- “If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.” Dalai Lama
And these views were reflected in our conclusions at the end of the debate:
- more than ever we need leaders who are able to move the crowd in an ethical way
- funny he we talk about world peace and yet our own peace over Xmas is a challenge
- I like the comment that peace requires “material and cultural equilibrium” bit this may be the start of a possible solution!
Barriers to peace – religion, poverty and ignorance
Before we got there though, we considered why peace is so elusive – what gets in our way?
- Religion was an early suspect: Or power struggles USE religious beliefs to generate loyalty
- And poverty: how can you feel peace in your heart when you are hungry every day
- Lack of guidance: Who teaches children about peace? parents, schoolteachers, priests, etc: – not many of them
- And greed: We don’t want to be equal, we are greedy to be better off than average. So we encroach on each other
As usual, at the end of the debate we considered the actions we could take personally. In the course of the discussion, some developed an appetite for peace action:
- There is still time to do something for peace in 2010! 15 more days!
- Support charities working for peace!
- In the home / workplace / community / traffic jam I might try to notice when I’m taking a polarity position instead of a wholeness one
- make peace with one of my enemies
- I am buying peace as my xmas presents
We structured our debate a little differently this time, asking participants to have a conversation with Planet Earth. This approach gave a different flavour to the debate – making it a bit more immediate and touching.
Here is some of what was said:
Q: Please share your reasons for joining today’s debate
- I am here because I have a sense that COP really repeates the ways of working that are not working anyway. I feel that what it suggests is that the moral right to act lies outside the structures we have created. maybe its lies with each of us as individuals.
- Nothing has been happening since COP either
Q: EARTH: I was interested to see what happened in Copenhagen. How do you think I should be feeling now. Please explain your answer.
- I sense some of the groups (350 for example) are re-grouping.
- Something has changed, but I don’t know what yet
- Maybe it’s up to us then if they (the foremost leaders) are not up for / up to the job
Q: EARTH: Despite the big talks, I believe there are some things that are hopeful on a more human scale. Can you tell me any good news from your point of view?
- I see more & more people interested in community
- Regardless of the debates on climate change being “true” or not, we are abusing the earth and could do with a rethink
- I feel that we are beginning to accept that its up to us, and just to us, not institutions, not someone else, just me & you
- I feel more optimistic whenever I hear of people believing in the future and working for it, instead of shrugging and looking the other way
- I do not think this is about big action only… it is about us 7 bln people doing all some small different things… the multiplier effect is real big
- There is a movement called ARK (acts of random kindness) in Ireland – its a business as well. It have 3000+ fans on Facebook & it talks about giving profits to good causes, fans are asked to ‘do acts of random kindness’
Q: EARTH: Where do YOU fit in all this? Are you one of the good guys or one of the bad guys?
- When living in Western Europe, it is difficult not to feel as a bad guy, unless you go and live in a hut in the forest
- I do believe we are responsible and that we can solve this. But I don’t devote everything to saving you Earth
- I feel different just for declaring that I’m a “bad guy”. Maybe that is the beginning of me changing my mind
Q: EARTH: If I’m to get through the next 100 years in one piece, what are the most important things that need to happen?
- Education – changing education
- Reconnecting – people with people, people with nature, insides with outsides
- Accepting that enough is plenty, letting go of ‘endless growth as a model’, coming to realise what living on a planet means & that as humans we are part of, rather than masters of, a living system
- Tell the pope that the pill is a good idea
- different growth .. if we start valuing more the capacity to have time then eg then pure consumption..the whole economy will be triggered differently.. a different kind of clean currency?
- different growth or way of looking at progress.. more about efficiency with respect to resources, more about rewarding and striving for values which are less money but more related to human values, beauty etc
- The Green Schools movement is really encouraging – maybe we need a new model
There were clearly two camps in November’s Thinking Tank and many statements split the vote.
Some overlap though on the issues and the challenges – and the wordcloud below shows the importance of changing people’s minds through costs / taxation, making sustainability affordable and increasing impact of information via clear labelling.
The following two statements got the highest level of support:
- Its easier to agree that “something should be done” than on what that something is or who should do it
- It is a moment for inspiring leadership. If whole countries cannot get their act together then at least transition towns can lead the way. Then counties? States?
Maybe then the issue is not so much to agree on the technicalities (definition, scope etc) but to gather support for the concept. After all many broad ideas such as love, good citizenship, decency are not easily pinned down — but widely accepted and worth pursuing nonetheless.
30% of participants classified themselves as “mostly sustainable” or “activists”. The majority self-classified as “I try to do my bit”.
Participants identified a set of conditions for effective action on sustainability
1. Clear up the confusion
- I think the apathy is partly because people are unsure about what they should do
- labelling that makes impact clear, tax to increase the cost of things that use up resources, and increasing general awareness
2. Improve the offer
- make sustainable products look and feel like other products, same quality/same price/same comfort
- Another seems to be to make it easier, more convenient, more fitting into normal life either at no cost or the same cost ( rather than charging extra)
There is recognition by some of this unrealistic position given current economic models. Non-sustainable products are artificially cheap as the true costs are not passed on to the consumer. Therefore penalties may be required to level the playing field.
3. Improve the motivation
- better to motivate people and reward them for their good behaviour instead of punishing them
The following comments split the group and may point to potential difficulties for getting sustainability across to the population as a whole.
1. Communicating sustainability
- Most people just don’t think about tomorrow
- It’s not that people don’t think about tomorrow, just that we are busy getting through today
- It’s just common sense. It’s the non-sustainable approach that has been imposed on us.
- My kids respond best to the “Hole in the Sky” concept (their language not mine). They can see the sky. A hole would be scary. Easy to say to each other “don’t do that or you’ll make the hole in the sky bigger”
2. The business of sustainability
- Sustainability is big business for many, many consultants and advisers
- Overcomplicated, elitist greenies making it too hard to understand
3. The economics of sustainability
- At the moment, behaving unsustainably is “free at the point of purchase”. We could change that with a “damage tax”
- Develop an i-phone app that keeps track of my ecofootprint, rewards me when I reduce it, makes cool suggestions etc
If you would like to see a full list of statements please email me
In this lively debate featuring participants from the World Bank, Insead, green organisations and business, joined together to identify their shared views on sustainability. The debate centred around turning sustainability into something for everyone.
The issue is described as boring, complex and confusing rather than inspiring or motivating. There are lots of words around the need for a change of approach.
The following two statements got the highest level of support:
- I think the issue is less that it is “boring” and more that it is “confusing” because it means so many different things to so many different people.
- The language is all too academic and easy to feel remote from… we need real down to earth stuff that people can get their head around and feel inspired to make the change
Based on this output, we will be building on the last debate in the November Thinking Tank—we hope you can join us to start to work out some ways forward on this challenge.
See the report The Thinking Tank Report Sustainability is Boring
1. Low levels of engagement in the issue across population as a whole
- It’s not just the perceived sacrifice, or injustice, – it’s the likelihood that 95% of the rest of the population won’t do it!
2. Too many issues wrapped up under one umbrella making it very difficult to communicate
- Sustainability is a BIG word and means many different things: environment, social wellbeing, social justice, etc
3. Even if the issues are communicated, the need to make changes, some of them uncomfortable, makes it unlikely
- It is maybe more difficult then boring.. fundamentally it is about changing way of doing things and that is never easy
- At an intellectual level we can understand Sustainable Development but at a personal level, if it involves hard choices, it is much more difficult
So there was general agreement about the scale of the problem… Now how do we move forward? The most popular suggestion was
- I’m all for picking a couple of key issues, making it simple, widely understood and causing change (think drink-driving and how that shifted its social acceptability
The most supported idea (over 8o%) was that the perfect family would be
- a family full of support, affection and belief in you
This was despite the fact that half the group agreed that
- family can be seen as a restriction
Overall, we had two main points of view represented in the debate, those supporting a traditional, strong, nuclear family and those who took a more fluid view.
Threats to families in today’s world
Families are seen as facing some challenges today – from societal changes and other distractions
Family life has changed from a nostalgia of sledging and Sunday tea to a confusing, challenging chaos
Changing state of families
But the changes are not all problematic. The new openness of the idea of family is also seen by many as an opportunity
- Cultural diversity is a challenge not a threat
- Monocultures are easier to manage but don’t offer the same opportunities.
- More varied structures have potential to accommodate a greater number of individual needs
Meanwhile, most of us are part of a family, so what should we do for the best? These ideas were supported by the group:
- So we’ll go through a messy patch – and then… brave new world
- Parenting today is more about leadership than dictatorship
Support each other
- Accepting that being a family doesn’t mean necessarily living under one roof
- A general broadening of the sense of ‘family’
For the authorities
- Challenge organisations who still produce forms that are impossible to fill in if you’re not a “proper” family
- Minister: promote positive family models, based on values and behaviour, not structure
- More inclusiveness then exclusiveness
If you have connections with any such group or individuals and could help to set something up then please contact the Thinking Tank to discuss how we could make this happen.
If you have personal concerns on these issues then there are various organizations working positively in this area who may be able to help you.
If you represent such an organization and would like a link from this page, please let us know.
If you would like to see a full list of statements please email me
Pause for thought
While it was sympathetic to the challenges of the unemployed, this debate focused much more on the value of unemployment to society and to the individual as a pause for reflection. The most supported statements from the whole debate were:
- An opportunity to change direction should one wish to.
- It can be a fantastic moment to rethink your goals and priorities, to make (new) choices
- We were told twenty years ago about a leisure society yet we still work our socks off…
Compared to other Thinking Tanks, this debate was more reflective, less fast paced. In all however over 100 points of view were proposed by the group, evaluated and ranked.
There was clear acknowledgement of the downsides of unemployment for the individual, particularly in the absence of hope
- I grew up in a town with mass unemployment (closed steel mill) – the new norm became hanging around feeling hopeless
- Stress on families
And the detrimental impact on the economy / society:
- If the unemployment rate is too high, so then, there is a negative economic impact for society
- Waste of human resources – missing to include these people’s potential
Actions for business leaders
There was a belief that business leaders should be managing for growth and business success and this will in turn maintain employment requirements.
- There must be very valuable workers in my company, so that, we should redefine new markets. (there are always new opportunities to discover)
Two sides of the coin
On the issue of our role as employers / business leaders, there were clearly two schools of thought. Bipolar Synthetrons (where a statement attracts both significant support and significant opposition) on actions that we can take to address the issues raised by unemployment included:
- Maintain a relationship with ex employees eg as ad hoc team members while they are looking for next job
- I can help employees to grow personally while being on the job and by such creating resilience in the face of unemployment.
- Be aware of the research showing that the hard fast high cutting companies do very much worse after a crisis than the ones that keep some slack, fire in a humane way, let the employees keep in touch with each other, stimulate these contacts, …
- I can coach people better
This bipolarity was also the case concerning some of the advantages to society of unemployment – maybe reflecting personal experiences.
- I always learned that a certain degree of unemployment helps the economy to grow, change have a real labour market.. and I do believe that could be a benefit for society if we were all part time unemployed with time to do other important things. now a large group of people work more than 100% neglecting themselves, family and friends, while others do not have any work at all.
The word cloud (below) shows how the content of the debate went—the bigger the word, the more mentions and the higher the support. Most of the larger words are positive and focus on new beginnings. Of course many of the participants are successful in life—maybe due in part to this positive approach.