On the thinking/doing gap

When I need to make a difficult phone call I almost always have a feeling of, oh crap! Actually, let me be completely honest, any phone call. I just don’t like it and so I tend to defer. I might guess why that is, but that’s not so important here. Suffice it to say, I […]

On switching states

I sometimes wonder about the extent to which we see change as the need to switch from one state to another. To see things this way is to see change in terms of levers to be pulled, states to change, programmes to ‘get with’, things to stop and start, resolutions to make and keep. If […]

On valuing the intangibles

I’m watching the building opposite lurch skyward, day by day, block of concrete by protrusion of steel wires. Slowly the green vista beyond disappears. The reservoir that flattens the view across to Walthamstow, that offers a mirror to the clouds as they congregate and mingle and dissipate, that provides sanctuary for the birds I hear […]

On power

When we think about systems change we can often think of a complex system in isolation from all others, and yet that’s an artificial simplification of the kind we are trying to overcome through the application of systems thinking in the first place. We can’t think about reinventing the humanitarian system without asking first some […]

On balancing acts

We all know the public sector faces unprecedented pressures. Rising demand and expectations are compounded by Covid19 backlogs and falling budgets. These are the immediate and pressing concerns that public sector leaders face. It is easy in such times to enter survival mode, tending to the urgent presenting issues. However ,this comes at the expense […]

On the tensions of systems change

How many of us are in professions we dreamed of when we were young? Few, I guess, not only because most opportunties remained unknown to us growing up but also because many wouldn’t have existed then, either. Opportunities tend to only reveal themselves as we work our way through life. For me, I didn’t know […]

On rules

This piece is not going to advocate for a form of anarchy but rather explore the insidious nature of how our attempts to control with rules can tend towards the opposite. A rule is an abstraction and usually an attempt to ensure conformity to a standard: driving on the left, working between 9 and 5, […]

On the tyranny of goals

After South Africa thrashed England in the recent test, captain Ben Stokes said something I can’t imagine any other team captain has ever said in any sport: “I don’t want England to focus too much on results”. Yes!! He went on: “The message […] will be, ‘Did we commit to everything the way we committed […]

On music as a barometer of social change

The baseline thunders through your body, primeval, uplifting, manifestations of Gaia’s energy of life. You’re dancing around a fire to the rhythm of the pounding drums. The sparks fly upwards into the sky and you’re lost in the meditation of the moment. Ten thousand years later and you’re in a dark club in the early […]

On my journey with the RSA

From time to time, as you navigate the complexity of life, you can reach a vantage point, take a look around and see things differently, see new things emerging. Feel drawn to a different future, in a different direction. If you’re paying attention within and without, you know when it’s time. And for me, after […]