Category Archives: Podcasts

Chris Corrigan on living systems

Rob and I did our latest Phoric podcast with Chris Corrigan, who was pretty awesome. Chris never fails to provoke and engage and his choice of videos was fascinating.

The first features a guy who learnt how to move huge stones using small ones. He shows how on his own he can move a one-ton block 300 feet per hour. Then he shows how he can move a whole barn using the same principles or lift a massive block up high. Remarkable. As I say to Chris in our chat, it rehabilitates the whole of idea of leverage in organisations.

He says that “gravity is my favourite tool” and I love the notion of using the least effort to achieve a result. What a great video – I’d think of showing it to a group of people trying to tackle a challenge as a bit of inspiration.

Chris other choices are equally engaging, and if you listen to the podcast, see if you get as seduced by Chris’ worldview as I always do.

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Social media, mockery et al

This afternoon Tom Guarriello and I shot the breeze about the Shel Israel puppet story. Sorry, no shownotes for this one. We covered a fair bit of ground: what comic influences do we see here; is the British take on this kind of satire more indulgent; is there a line to be drawn between comedy and bullying; is there a slope and is it slippery. Tom contributes some great cultural context to the backstory.

In the end I think I’m mostly laughing and Tom’s laughing quite a lot and also feeling a bit queasy. I could well be mistaken. Enjoy.

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Knowledge Management, Apparently

Our seventh phoric podcast (originally scheduled for April 1) is out.

Rob and I were privileged to host Dr David Vaine of Apparently Knowledge Management. He is a true thought-leader in the area of KM. Hear how his Architecting Space for Sharing (ASS) and Wisdom Managment Programme (WIMP) help businesses avoid the promiscuous knowledge sharing and generally prevent social software from doing anything to disrupt hierarchy.

Among the highlights: Dr Vaine explaining the chief virtue of transparency: the ability for everyone to know their place. The insight that “it’s really most important to make sure people do not feel comfortable in their own skin” and “if you put people down put them down humanely”.

As I say at the end Dr V really does put the Apparently into KM.

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Showing his mastery of the tools Dr V made his own video of his performance which shows him off to even greater advantage.

And thanks to Patrick Lambe for persuading the good Doctor to share his wisdom with us.

The pitfalls of confidentiality

Annette Clancy’s recent post on the pitfalls of confidentiality in client relationships prompted her Matt Moore and me to record a podcast chat about it this afternoon.

Click to Listen Download the Podcast – 29m – MP3 (9 MB)

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Annette has posted it on her blog and I’m repeating here for regular listeners.

Annette’s done some good show notes which I’m just copying and pasting them here to save time. Obviously these are a rough guide so don’t take them too literally.

Thanks to Annette and Matt for a good conversation.

Disclaimer: These are a rough summary of the conversation accompanied by flexible/rough timings.

0.0 Annette

How important is confidentiality at work? and how much of my product offering as a consultant is the guarantee that whatever is told to me will be held in confidence? Are consultants professional secret keepers? and how much of our work is containing and sanitising misdemeanours offering them back as palatable organisational learnings? What or whom are we minding?


How important is confidentiality at work?

0.50 Johnnie

It’s ‘very important’. It means different things to different people at different times – is it a way of addressing status – I had to sign an NDA etc. Sometimes it’s a status play. It is a way of entrapping the other person in something – am I doing you a favour or am I inviting you into a trap? It’s complex isn’t it?

2.08 Annette

How much of the conversation around confidentiality is in fact a seduction – around secrets?

2.18 Matt

One way of taking someone into your confidence is to offer them a secret and that has all kinds of levels and layers – does it happen once? Several times? And what happens when you break that trust?

Matt talks about his role as an internal consultant and how people entrust him with their secrets and the complexity of the messages and seductions contained within those secrets.

5.18 Annette

Annette notes that both Matt and Johnnie are talking about ‘intimacy’ and asks how we set up the conditions for that to take place. Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips talks about how we can set up the conditions for romance but there’s no guarantee that romance will happen – what kinds of ploys do Matt and Johnnie use to set up the romantic conditions for intimacy in the workplace?

6.32 Johnnie

Johnnie professes his interest in intimacy and his interest in web tools which foster intimacy.

Johnnie talks about the shift from confidentiality as control to a more open sharing of information via Open Space and other similar processes. He talks about relinquishing his role as ‘consultant confessor’ which has become an uncomfortable role. Am I getting in the way by holding a secret?

9.19 Annette

What burden is placed on someone designated as ‘knowledge manager’ to manage hidden knowledge – how does Matt manage the externalised ‘known knowledge’ with the internalised ‘unknown’?

9.41 Matt

Matt admits to being a hypocrite! The official versus the ‘real’ version of events often conflict. Matt then goes on to say how hypocrisy works in practice – including sanitising stories; the pleasure of being taken into someone’s confidence; the manufacture of intimacy and how hypocrisy functions as a social lubrication.

13.13 Annette

Consultants are also politicians in organisations and are we talking here about the context we create (or wish to create) rather than the content of what people are saying?

13.40 Johnnie

Creating explicitly ‘confident’ scenarios aren’t particularly enjoyable and neither do they work. Johnnie talks about how this works in practice.

15.43 Annette

There is often an assumption that the stories revealed in confidence have more truth than those revealed in public and also we are not capable of hearing or speaking truth in organisations. Does being an internal consultant add another layer to that mix?

16.23 Matt

Openness versus closedness is an interesting concept – we need to keep some things private. Matt is often asked to take sides – to join a tribe – and secrets are a way of extending this invitation. Matt talks about respecting the invitation while not getting pulled in..

19.15 Annette

Scepticism is useful – our relationship with secrets and confidences is influenced by splits good/bad; useful/unhelpful – can we strike a balance between them? Respecting what this intervention has to offer for this system?

20.12 Johnnie

Explicit confidentiality agreements can serve to shut down the sharing of confidences and sensitive information – the opposite is often the case. The paradox here is that less is shared when the discussion is explicit – when it becomes ritualised it becomes less effective. Johnnie talks about the difference between hard and soft trust.

22.07 Annette

There is a dance in negotiating confidence – in removing that dance we give a message that there is apart of me or thoughts I want to share that are unacceptable.

22.48 Johnnie

Johnnie asks about what that negotiation means – is it explicit? Is it implicit? What does it look like?

23.21 Annette

Annette talks about unconscious and non verbal negotiations that invite revelation – seeking permission to inquire about someone’s personal story.

23.50 Matt

We prefer to have soft trust – informal trust but we fall back on hard trust and the rules when that isn’t guaranteed and when there are issues of power and status at play. If you are genuinely sharing yourself you make yourself vulnerable and organisations are treacherous places…

25.07 Johnnie

Perhaps it’s our job to be the ones who are willing to be vulnerable – it’s easy to revert to rules but it’s useful to talk about our own vulnerabilities as it gives permission to those we work with to talk about theirs.

26.16 Annette

We have all kinds of things in our consultancy toolkits but feelings are the primary ones that I draw on

26.30 Johnnie

Suggests pausing the conversation there for now..

27.07 Annette

Thanks to Matt and Johnnie for sharing their thoughts.


Podcast: Touch, organisations and Capt Mainwaring

Is touch – physical and emotional – a taboo subject in organisations? Why are we so sensitive about it? What is about things “touchy-feely” that seem to make people well, touchy?

I recorded this podcast earlier today with Patrick Lambe and Mark Earls. Patrick wrote a provocative post on the subject a few weeks ago and I wanted to explore this further.

We managed to get into a discussion about lots of things from the tragic to the comic, the latter in the form of a riff on the lessons for management of Dad’s Army. No firm conclusions reached, needless to say, but several hobby horses ridden and hopefully ideas provoked for you.

Patrick emphasises how controversial touch is, and suggests that some people just don’t like it. (We missed the now-obvious Dad’s Army link to Corporal Jones’ “they don’t like it up ’em”). Reflecting on this I’d probably make it about how we are willing to be touched than a blanket do-or-don’t, but not sure Patrick would agree.

Anyway, hope you find it interesting and all feedback welcome.

Click to Listen Download the Podcast – 27m – MP3 (9 MB)

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Show notes

Here are the show notes with my usual health warning: Timings are approximate and this is my paraphrasing of what was said. Don’t take them it too literally.

0.00 Intros

0 45 Patrick explains why he wrote about touch in the first place: how knowledge management tends to autism, stripping context and emotion out of human organisation. The case of Victoria Climbie, how government agencies consistently failed to organise a response to the abuse people could see at a personal level. Also recent experiences of how a client responded uncomfortably to handshakes. Organisations seem to avoid touch, and knowledge management is seen as a very rational, disembodied thing.

3 30 Dangers of missing context when thinking about knowledge, eg the emotional context that often drives the process.

4 10 Johnnie contrasts work meetings with friends from social networks – warmer, less linear – and others in more formal organisational settings, which are less warm, apparently more strictly on-topic, but less productive.

6 10 Patrick and Johnnie talk about the word “autistic” to describe how some meetings operate when the sense of contact is missing.

6 40 Mark joins in. “We’re scared of what it is to be human in organisations… scared to realise that what we do together is rather more than the bits of information in our heads and the grand abstract ideas we have, and it’s rather more to do with just the day-to-day interaction with folk” Touching a really important part of our humanity. Autistic a really useful metaphor.

7 20 Patrick raises Dunbar’s idea of language’s origins in social grooming. Mark joins in on this – it’s why so little of what we say is responsible for the meaning that the listener takes from it.

8 35 Patrick talks about the comments his post received, found them polarised: “That’s pretty much how touch works, you either like it or you don’t like it… you don’t feel neutral about touch.” You can fake your language but it’s harder to fake your touch.

9 45 Mark: some people would really like to reduce the messiness of human interaction, “ideally to ones and zeroes… because it reduces all ambiguity and all personal risk…” Patrick: and corporates like it because it makes people interchangeable.

10 30 Mark: Most business thinking goes back 100 years to the age of the machine. People find it hard to let go of those ideas which see humans as fundamentally untrustworthy.

11 05 Johnnie: how people are reluctant to own their own response to touch, and prefer instead to moralise about “how things are done round here”. That moralising means we lose touch, even with our own feelings.

12 35 Patrick: touch is very significant in the primate context where there are lots of group constraints about what is and isn’t ok. In that sense, there are rules.

13 20 Mark: “Professional is everything that human beings aren’t… organised, disciplined…”

13 45 Mark brings up the example of Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army as example of that kind of ineffectual professionalism. Johnnie contrasts Mainwaring with Private Walker the black marketeer who Mainwaring sneers at but goes to sheepishly for his black market needs. Mark also contrasts with Sergeant Wilson who is more at ease touch/feel-wise.

15 40 Patrick: Where does this insecurity (about touch, feel) come from? Mark speculates part of it is just doing what we see those around us doing. How being professional appears to be morally superior although it’s “a denial of everything else apart from what goes on betwen our ears”.

17 20 Johnnie talks about how social software developments eg Facebook will contribute to a softening of this professional facade; that there will be less of a split between our working persona and our social one.

18 30 Patrick: I think the split might be between the touchers and the non-touchers. Some people just don’t want it and others tune into it very easily. Johnnie thinks it’s about context; people have different responses to touch in different contexts eg at work vs in the pub.

20 20 Mark: “people do have real lives as opposed to units of resource in a corporation” We might not find it easy to lose our own shackles but may find it easier to be around people who do. That might drive a gradual change.

21 20 Patrick refers back to the dangers of the Victoria Climbie incident repeating: “If we keep our separate lives… the autistic corporate one and the personal one, that problem is always going to be there.”

22 40 Mark talks about his experience with Planning for Good. What he finds is he has a personal connection with the people, they want to get involved. If you get proximity and connectedness to a purpose, something happens.

24 00 A few closing comments.

25 27 End

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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Euan’s Phoric

Rob and I did our fifth Phoric podcast on Friday with Euan Semple. As with the other guests, Euan picks three youtubes and talks about what excites him about them. And as with other guests, this proves to be the launchpad for a great conversation – in this case drifting toward the future of broadcasting in a webby world.

I particularly like Euan talking about broadcast organisations needing to be built around stories rather than abstract notions like efficiency (I’m paraphrasing). Rob and Euan swap notes about how radio shows can be enlivened by integrating things like Twitter. Euan also shares a good story about a radio show stimulating listeners to edit wikipedia live as they interviewed the subject of one of its entries.

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To see the clips, or get the 10min version, please go to the Phoric post.


I’ve found myself referring to love in two recent podcasts. (The latest Hugh and the Rabbi, soon to be released and the fourth Phoric, with guest Alex Kjerulf.)

Both times I expressed my caution about banding this term around, as it seems a charged word, and one that I’ve seen often used to describe something more like lust or egomania. (Which sometimes provokes a bit of egomania by me in return.)

Still, I have a feeling that some form of love is what really holds together most of the collaboration in the world. Not the mission statements, goals, agendas, action points and other ephemera of management and consultancy.

And Alex’s podcast is well worth a listen. Rob and I are still in the early days of the series. It’s interesting how much you can learn about people and maybe life from the jumping off point of: What are your favourite YouTubes?

On a techie note, I’m hoping that followers of my podcast xml feed will now find it suitably embedded. Here’s the 20min extended version.

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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