War on Drugs? Nov 24.

In June of this year one blog made this summary “Forty years and $1 trillion later, America’s “War on Drugs” remains a costly, colossal failure – as evidenced by a new report released this week by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.”

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 24

One Thinking Tanker has commented

“The war on drugs not only is a total failure, it makes the problem much worse.
It creates much more and much bigger problems than it is trying to resolve, because it starts form a totally wrong premise: for purely ideological reasons, it totally irrationally defines a difficult medical problem as a criminal one.”

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 24

Start the debate now by tweeting with #thinkingtank


  • Yesterday’s article in the NY Times ““It could lead to a nationalist backlash in the countries involved,””
  • Huffington Post: Is legalisation the answer?
  • RSA Drugs – is it always abuse?

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 17

Future Thinking Tank Discussions

(always Thursdays, always 4pm UK  / 5pm Euro / 11am US East Coast…). Topics may change if there is a more pressing issue at the time. Please feel free to make suggestions by adding a comment below

  • 22 Dec (Winter Solstice): Rituals and their role in modern society. As you prepare for Christmas, Hannukah, recover from Eid or plan your own rites, we take a break to reflect on why rituals are so important to us and how they might help even a post-modernist society.
  • New Year (Jan 26). Stopping and Starting. What will you leave behind with 2011, what will you work on in 2012?
  • Feb 23: The F-word. Over a century after New Zealand gave all women the right to vote and nearly 50 years after the US Equal Pay Act the situation is still far from balanced. 70% of the world’s poor are women and girls and the gender pay gap still exists. Where do we go from here?

Prosperity debate 20.10.11

As the euro wobbles and personal and national debts mount around the world, we took a moment approaching Diwali to debate prosperity. Which involved into a debate around prosperity and scarcity – the yin and yang of creativity and progress according to the group.

Here are some highlights of what they said (statements in italics are verbatim, those in bold were supported by at least 70%):

Prosperity is a broad concept

  • My definition of prosperity is much broader than when I was in my 20s. The sun is shining, I am learning new things

Also mentioned: freedom,. education, family, sharing, mentors, work hard play hard. Seen by some as a privilege, a luxury for some people in some countries, not broadly available to all.

Prosperity is desirable and allows progress / evolution

  • Your kids are learning a lot of things that you had no chance to… (thanks to increased prosperity)
  • if all my energy goes into finding the next meal, when is the moment of brilliance going to emerge?

Prosperity also comes with risks

  • risk: smugness, complacency, stagnation
  • Risk to forget about the less fortunate

Though a smaller group disagreed with this view

  • At systemic level I disagree about complacency …. there is always a push from the bottom …. if you get complacent you stop growing …. others will ….

Prosperity and Scarcity

  • Scarcity creates some urgency in solving problems. So a good driver. But I think it leads us to focus on the basics so no good for human evolution
  • I like the occasional bit of scarcity eg a 2 hour power cut, a day when the shops are closed. It leaves me joyful when it is over
  • Plenty of budget makes us unimaginative, plenty of time makes me lazy
  • At the begining, need / scarcity motivates change, creativity …. then without a bit of prosperity you get stuck

Prosperity can be nurtured

The greatest levels of agreement were around ways to encourage prosperity

    • Continue to give freedom to women
    • Invest in clean and cheap energy (we are not there yet!)
    • Teach prosperity in schools (an inclusive view of prosperity which includes social capital, beauty, creativity, caring as well as financial security)
    • Continue to reduce trade barriers (e.g. CAP policy in Europe, fran subsidies in the US)
    • Continue to try to remove dictators …. (e.g. good news today about Gaddafi!)
    • Continue to educate all people
    • Nobody needs more than ten years living expenses. So increase your prosperity by sharing your wealth (or skills)


Next: Sep 29th 4pm. Lies, damn lies…

Next discussion

No, thatWhen do you lie? Does it matter? Is lying increasing or on the wane as transparency shifts our expectations but mobile phones and Second Life allow us to be who we want, when we want? Good for you? Bad for me?

CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th


CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th

    Future Thinking Tank Discussions

    (always Thursdays, always 4pm UK  / 5pm Euro / 11am US East Coast…). Topics may change if there is a more pressing issue at the time. Please feel free to make suggestions by adding a comment below

    • 20 Oct: Prosperity. As we approach Diwali* let’s consider what prosperity means in the 21st century and how we can enjoy and spread it
    • 24 Nov: tbc
    • 22 Dec (Winter Solstice): Rituals and their role in modern society. As you prepare for Christmas, Hannukah, recover from Eid or plan your own rites, we take a break to reflect on why rituals are so important to us and how they might help even a post-modernist society.
    • New Year (Jan ). Stopping and Starting. What will you leave behind with 2011, what will you work on in 2012?

    * Diwali, the festival of light, is an important day for Hindu (awareness of inner light), Jain (equivalent of Easter when Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana) and Sikh (celebration of freedom) communities as well as the beginning of the Indian financial year

    CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th

    Results from 21.07.2011 debate. The Murdoch Effect.


    Power corrupts: we must all be vigilant and selective.

    • We need to get our information from different sources , always to balance and weigh  whatever comes our way

    Watchwords: Governance, ownership, checks and balances, avoid concentration of power

    • In Latin America we also see a similar phenomenon with the media companies and their power

    The clean up process: ugly but welcome

    • Personally I thought that anyway so I am glad that it has been exposed like this. There are many honourable police officers but also systemic corruption that needs to be rooted out.
    We are all part of the problem or part of the solution
    • Good reminder that we all make many choices each day. Sometimes the choice is to do what’s convenient or to do what is right.. If we go with convenient we are each part of the problem.


    Click on the pdf file to see the full list of synthetrons ordered by topic 1107 Murdoch Effect full report

    4pm 21.07.2011 debate. The Murdoch Effect. Just desserts or Just a Blip?

    Recent events in the UK have jeopardised Murdoch’s bid to control satellite TV. Relationships that have come to light between media, politicians and police have caused many questions to be asked. Click here to join us 4pm (UK time) July 21st.

    In this month’s Thinking Tank we consider

    • Are these cosy arrangements inevitable or should we fight to expose them?
    • Does this decision signify a new era of transparency or is it just a one off?

    Previous Thinking Tanks have often cited the media as the cause of the problem.

    • Is this a moment of truth for their role in our lives?
    • Or are they right when they blame consumers who buy the scandal and horror stories?

    Don’t miss out. Have your say in this debate and let’s make the news for ourselves.

    Click here to join us 4pm (UK time) July 21st.

    Results: Is networking notworking?

    Our June Thinking Tank reflected on the rights and wrongs and changing trends in networking – online and offline. More below…

    Espresso summary

    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

    Medium summary

    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

    Grande summary

    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

    Next Tank: 16 June 2011: To network or to notwork?

    Is twittering just for twits? Or can you not work without networking? Are you face to face or screen to screen? What does that reveal about you?

    Here is a random selection from tweets on #networking:

    • How to: Supercharge Your LinkedIn Profile
    • Tired of adapting to Facebooks constant changes? Need a new networking platform?
    • Driving Results Through the Power of Social Networking
    • The invent of the social networking sites have made everyone these self-imposed multi talented humans

    Just a quick sample but already it shows what an obsession this is all becoming.

    • I tweet therefore I am? (Tweet now with #notworking)
    • Do you use work to avoid networking or the opposite?
    • What is the breakthrough thinking that takes this up a notch from chatting aimlessly at the virtual bus stop to something that can change our world?
    • Top tips for networking?
    • Top tips for notworking?

    Join the debate live online here. 4pm UK time. Thursday June 16th

    Results: why we are not as ethical as we think

    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 cmshovlin@gmail.com. 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.

    Next Thinking Tank 19.05.2011 “We’re not as ethical as we think”

    This is the challenge thrown down by Max H. Bazerman, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Ann E. Tenbrunsel, a professor of business ethics at the University of Notre Dame. Their new book examines the reality gap between how “good” we like to think we are and what we do in practice. Uncomfortable stuff.

    The main causes they identify include biases and prejudices, turning a blind eye and self interest. In our discussion we will attempt to look at our own blind spots and consider what we – and society – can do to address this issue.

    Join us for this online debate where we dare to examine our deepest motives. 45 minute live event on Thursday 19 May. Starts 4pm UK time, 5pm CET

    See here for information about their book: Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It

    Join the discussion here. As promoted on RSA USA website

    Thinking Tank 21.03.2011 Global or local?

    The subject for this week’s Thinking Tank discussion Is Local or Global? Where would you start to make the world a better place?Thinking Tank debate Global or local

    When I worked in multinationals and international development, I was all for global solutions. The more time I spend at a microcommunity level the more I wonder if it isn’t just the same – so we may as well do something where we find ourselves. You may feel though that big initiatives like global warming need a top-down approach.

    This Thursday, online, at 4pm GMT. Be local, be global, enlighten and be enlightened. Stretch your mind with people you might never otherwise meet. And if you can’t make the live event, why not twitter now using #tanklocal and we can feed in your comments

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