Captain's Log Issue #90 - Humility
Julian Stodd, November 2019

‘To the Moon and Back: Leadership Reflections from Apollo’ has arrived back from the printers! I have the preview copies on my desk, and we are gearing up for a full launch on the 28th November.

It’s always a joy when a book finally lands, and you can pick it up and touch it, especially when it looks so lovely (I am really happy with the illustrations for this book!).

Of course, that joy is tempered by the feeling that follows around forty five seconds later: oh, I could have added a chapter on this… I could have edited that shorter… I could have done a different illustration there…

When a book lands, it is immediately a representation of what I thought yesterday, not what I think today. The redundancy is inbuilt. But to view this as a failure is to miss the point: books do not represent the sum total of our knowledge. They represent the foundations of our current ignorance. They are a platform to step off from, into further exploration. Which is why the final page of the Apollo book is a quote from Buzz Aldrin about heading to Mars.

In The News

The Futility of Meetings

This piece is either liberating or depressing, depending I suppose upon whether you are the person organising it or not. I found it depressing: meetings let us show off and validate ourselves. Oh dear…

My Writing

I have focussed the whole of this week on a new thing: a ‘5 Day Experiment’ into Storytelling in Social Leadership, and how it helps us to build our Communities. If I am honest, this is a rather ramshackle piece of work so far: it bats around between topics, and lacks a clear focus. But I am rather pleased with how it creates a space, and I have had decent engagement.

This first piece sets the foundation, describing how some stories fly, whilst others just die:

Day 1: Power

This next one forms Day 1 of the experiment. It looks at the underlying power behind stories. I usually say that if you can only explore one feature of social systems, make it ‘power’, as that is the key to everything else.

Day 2: Story Handles

The second day takes us into exploring the mechanisms by which people can pick a story up and carry it forwards. The key thing I am trying to do here is to establish that amplification, or pushing, is not the only way to gain momentum.

Day 3: Aggregation

This piece is less tidy, but looks at the spaces, and mechanisms by which waves of opinion collapse into one space. It’s evolving thinking, but I wanted to illustrate that there is a space between that which a story is formed, and that which it is amplified.

Day 4: Amplification

Another untidy piece here, but it explores how stories are amplified, and specifically the importance of humility in Social Leadership. The connection may be tenuous, but I suspect important. And this is an experimental space, so I am happy to let people think about it and draw their own conclusions.

Day 5: Listening

The final day is time to stop and listen and to consider whether we only hear the loud noises. In this experiment, we take time to focus on where, and how, we listen and how we might recognise and learn through doing so.

What I'm Reading

My reading has fallen by the wayside this week: I shared that I was reading ‘Packing my library and ten digressions’ by Alberto Manguel last week, having chosen it specifically because it is short. But I am still going with it....

To cover for my failure, let me talk about street libraries: when I lived in Amsterdam, I found that these were common. People would put up a shelf or two, under some improvised plastic roof, and leave books on them, free for anyone to pick up and borrow or swap as they walked by.

Some of these were improvised affairs, whilst others were elaborate, old, and permanent. I love this idea, and am thinking about trying it myself: my fear that it would be vandalised countered by the fact that you never know until you try…

*I promise it will finish the book this weekend… but where i go next I am less certain. I may do a round of ‘finishing up’ some incomplete texts. I quite often leave a book with one chapter to go. A bad habit that makes me run out of bookmarks.

#WorkingOutLoud on the Certifications

I have a full programme of Certifications lined up for 2020, and working on a new brochure for those. One of the things i love about these is that they build a real community around them. But on the downside, they are exclusive. I really enjoy the open events and sessions, but inevitably these types of programme have to be paid affairs. I guess a balance is fine.

Alongside this, i have actually just enrolled on a module at the Open University around Systems Thinking. I suspect they have no such qualms about charging. I hope to #WorkOutLoud on my homework on the blog as i go.


What I'm Thinking About

From our own towers of belief, it’s easy to view change as something that happens to other people. But worth remembering that those people, the ones who resist, or fail to engage, are driven into their space by the rules, conventions, currencies, and conventions, of the current state. We learn our resistance, and it is held in a sensible place of safety.

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