Category Archives: Hugh and the Rabbi

Hugh, Rabbi and the Tribe

Hugh Pinny and I invited Ben Keene of Tribe Wanted onto our podcast.

I heard Ben give a talk in London and found his story inspiring. We chatted to him for 30 minutes about his experience setting up a tribe on a pacific island with an extended online community. It’s another great example of the sort of collaboration the web makes possible, and it’s also a fabulous example of how its about high touch as well as high tech.


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Show Notes

You know the drill, these are rough, check against delivery, do not chew the woodwork etc.

0.00 Intros

1.00 Ben recaps the story of Tribe Wanted. Could we take an online community and give it a real world headquarters on a desert island.

2.00 How the tribal chief shook hands with Ben and turned down Survivor

3.00 Working to build a sustainable village in Fiji, where people visit for 2 weeks but sustain their membership online.

4.00 Johnnie: reading the book, it seems the idea emerged from a conversation over a beer in Manchester. How did this crazy idea happen? Ben: the idea itself was so powerful. Creating a real world community could be done; building an online community could be done; so the leap of faith was in putting the two together.

5.55 Hugh: Tourism has made visiting exotic places fairly ordinary, so this idea of participating creates more sense of adventure than just sipping cocktails on a beach. As marketing gets more sophisticated, the search for meaning gets deeper.

6.40 Ben: The range of motives of community members ranges from wanting to lie on a beach to a real search for meaning.

7.40 Pinny: Draws analogy to the shtetl in Poland or Kibbutz in Israel. What is the role of the chief in this?

8.15 Ben on the ideas of leadership in Fiji. Part of the social experiment was to create an online democracy, which – amongs other things – elects the tribe leader each month. Leaders have ranged from 19 to 60. They have to really engage with the local community, this isn’t another reality TV show.

10.05 Pinny: how are people reacting to this idea. Ben answers: inital response to the idea when we threw it out was pretty big – but a lot of people said it would never work.

11.30 Hugh talks about England’s native scepticism. Ben explains how the US reacted more positively.

12.55 Hugh asks how Ben met the island chief. Ben tells how someone on the island had foretold that the world would come to the island. They’d actually anticipated this, and put the island up for lease to help the prophecy come true.

14.30 Pinny asks about sustainability. (Will you end it and then do the book tour?)

15.20 Ben answers and talks about the future. The beginning of a much bigger story, extending the lease on the island and other ways to build on the idea.

16.45 Johnnie: sense that although Ben has led the project, in many ways it feels like the story itself has led Ben. Johnnie prompts Ben to tell the story of how explained his idea to the islanders. 17.30 Ben tells the story [it’s worth listening to, I’m not writing it up, but it involves the local narcotic, David Beckham and the best use of a Venn diagram I’m ever likely to hear.]

20.15 Johnnie asks Ben to talk about how the community, in its very early days, coped with a major island fire. Baptism of fire indeed. There was a classic difference in the way Fijians and non-Fijians responded. The locals made tea and waited for the fire to burn itself out; some of the visitors tried to take action. How this represented different ideas of what community meant – and also notions of leadership.

22.40 Johnnie asks about how the island itself is a teacher; Ben talks about how the islanders celebrate mother’s day and frame the island itself as a mother.

23.20 Pinny asks about the spiritual/religious side, how does that work out? Ben: pretty much everyone that comes seems in tune with what we’re doing. The Fijians live a fairly traditional, Christian way of life. Things seem to pan out ok.

25.15 Pinny asks whether people stay engaged. Ben says this is the biggest challenge, including adapting to the fast changing technology eg things like Facebook.

27.25 Ben talks about the power of ideas, and trying to build a life around one.

28.00 Johnnie wraps up.

What’s Love Got to do with It?

The latest Hugh and the Rabbi podcast features Hugh, Pinny me and guest Euan Semple.

Recorded a few weeks ago we’ve only just round to posting it but I hope you enjoy it.

We went round the houses on a few things, but started off talking about love and what it might have to do with organisations.

Show notes below, you know the drill: unreliable blah blah…. timings approximate yadda yadda… rough paraphrasing etc etc… don’t take literally, rhubarb rhubarb.

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Show notes

0.00 Intros, Hugh forgets who “the Scottish guy is” and isn’t sure what Euan does but settles for rock star.

1.00 Hugh sets up the idea of love, recalling a talk about this by Euan at Reboot.

1.45 Euan talks about the L word, and people’s reactions to it. It’s about people’s basic desire to connect to each other, caring about things, getting passionate about things. So much of the business world sanitises passion out of things.

3.15 Pinny wonders about how companies show love. References Lovemarks. In relationships, if you don’t go to the nth degree, everything else doesn’t count. Talks about how mistakes by Facebook and Apple get pounced on by the blogosphere.

4.40 Lovemarks proves a red rag to Johnnie’s bull. Love means different things to different people. Johnnie wary of the fanatical idea of love, the pursuit of perfection. It’s more about being human, fallible.

5.50 Euan chimes in against fixation on the romantic idea of love. Instead favours “the passion that grows out of day-to-day stuff”.

6.45 Hugh asks Euan about his World Service experience at the BBC.

7.30 Euan: Roughly 47 different language services in the same building. Lots of characters, different cultures. “If you were climbing ladders, they were all against different walls.” – so less ego and tribalism than in the rest of the BBC. You had to get on quickly with people, the ability to engage and connect, and move ideas round the building was a formative experience.

9.00 Product of World Service is ideas but also the kind of intimacy you can create on radio.

9.50 Hugh talks about the purpose idea – what are we here for, why are we doing this. Trying to get a sense of purpose going.

10.30 Euan: purpose is good, so is obliqueness. Says what he likes about podcasts is that they are not like broadcasts. Meandering semi-conversations that get under skin in a different way than stuff projected at you in broadcasts. Conventional radio output sounds increasingly patronising.

12.20 Euan on how he pays each month to support Leo Laporte’s podcasts, more than half he pays in the BBC licence fee. “That’s me doing that to an individual because I really don’t want him to stop podcasting.” People will pay for stuff that’s passionate and accessible.

13.00 Hugh contrasts Euan’s story with a UK show, Newsnight Review and its affiliation with the Notting Hill cultural elite. New media is a threat, not so much to cash as to old media privilege.

14.30 Euan recalls David Weinberger saying conversations can only take place between equals.

15.00 Hugh on fanboys.

15.20 Hugh asks Pinny a question “as the only guy here with a real job”: does this podcast affect your business.

16.10 Pinny: it’s not affecting the business… what it affected is how people view him. Discusses impact on his employees with Hugh.

18.45 Hugh on podcasts as disruptors. Euan says disruption is a word with all sorts of baggage but we get involved in this stuff because it makes a difference. How can governance cope with these changes? It’s going to change power dynamics and who is successful and why.

21.10 Pinny returns to the theme of love, inspired by his nephew’s wedding where a Rabbi talked about what happens when you aren’t in love with love, but with the other. Companies need to own up to mistakes.

23.00 Hugh: gosh, act like a human being, not a robot. Johnnie: intimacy an important word in Euan’s story. There’s something about “ordinary smallness”, the ability to have a real conversation; how meetings that strive to be effective often fail. The need to feel each other as human beings.

24.30 Hugh on how small town, West Texas experience has affected him. How it’s safe to have a guy walking round with a ten inch knife, because everyone knows who he is and what the knife is for. Euan reminisces about Glasgow and Pinny, Israel.

27.20 Euan: the danger of homogenisation of success. Quote Doc Searls about things being valuable without being important.

28.00 Johnnie on spending Sunday morning with the papers and someone else, where you don’t talk but there’s a feeling of companionship. You can’t put that on a spreadsheet.

29.15 Johnnie on a twitter-related experience of finding work in a very accidental way. If fell out of a conversation where he wasn’t trying to make something happen.

30.30 Pinny: the unplanned as the eureka moments of our lives. Getting beyond ego.

32.10 Pinny on the online course Oprah is doing with Eckhart Tolle. This is why the web was created: to spread goodwill.

33.00 Hugh: a lot of people are trying to use the web to do business the way it’s usually been done, which misses the point.

34.00 Euan wonders about how these changes connect to our spirituality. Hugh recalls a Catholic priest who influenced him. God as a metaphor rather than a bearded sky fairy.

35.40 Pinny the web is teaching religion to say it’s about human beings, not about God. It’s teaching companies it’s about what the customer wants to pull, not what the company wants to push. Strip away the disease of entitlement and learn humility. Connects to the rise of Barack Obama.

37.20 Johnnie on the difference between Clinton and Obama. Clinton’s positioning as the leader, Obama’s emphasis on us.

38.20 Euan: authority used to mean authority as conferred; now it means having a compelling argument or idea.

39.00 Johnnie on authority as being the authors of our own experience. You don’t take authority from the BBC any more, you participate.

40.00 Hugh wraps by asking what advice we’d give corporate man in light of all this. Euan: be brave. Pinny: don’t be stupid (“Be brave but have a day job”) Empty your mid once a day for opportunity to happen. Hugh: be compassionate to those above you. Johnnie: you already know what to do.

44.35 Ends

More Hugh and the Rabbi

Hugh’s just posted the latest Hugh and the Rabbi Podcast with Hugh Pinny Mark and yours truly.

Hugh’s also written some good show notes which I appreciate as I know that’s harder work than it looks and a good aide memoire for me of the chat. We ramble around fairly shamelessly, but do get to talk about love and the value of small things, amongst other stuff. Hope you enjoy it.

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Hugh and the Rabbi

Hugh Macleod has put up a podcast of a chat he had with me Mark Earls and Pinny Gniwisch. We kick around a few different ideas starting with the debate about influencers.

Towards the end, I squeeze in an anecdote about Charles Laughton. Listening, I realised I didn’t quite get the end line as I first heard it, so I’ll recapitulate.

Laughton, the famed movie actor, is at a Christmas dinner. The household is into creating its own entertainment, so everyone is invited to perform a piece that embodies, for them, the spirt of Christmas. When it comes to his turn, Laughton recites the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want), to his audience’s delight. Later in the round, an aged aunt who has been dozing through much of the evening is prompted for her contribution. Not having heard the great actor, she too recites the psalm.

Though initially embarrassed by the repetition, the way in which she speaks soon stills her listeners, and a tear comes to everyone’s eye. Even Laughton is deeply moved and his host quietly asks him how this old lady has managed such an impact. Laughton replies: “I know the psalm, but she knows the shepherd”.

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