Captain's Log Issue #91 - Blast Off
Julian Stodd, November 2019

I launched my new book, ‘To the Moon and Back’, at an event in London last night. Those of you in this community are probably sick of me talking about it, but forgive me: it’s a long path to a paperback, and I feel the urge to celebrate! It takes the form of a ‘Leadership Reflection’, so perhaps sits alongside my other Social Leadership work, not extending that body of work, but applying it through reflection.

I think the book looks beautiful, which is important to me: as I have learned how to write (hopefully better), so too I have been learning to make the writing beautiful, and to package the books up ever better to fly to their new home.

This is important: a book is not utilitarian: it is a story. Sometimes one that is made up, and sometimes one based in truth, sometimes made of numbers, and at other times of words.

Illustration is, for me, both a challenge and a liberation.

It’s challenging because rarely does my talent match my desire. It’s liberating because once you draw an image, people invest their own meaning into it, which liberates me from the need to create the meaning myself.

I find it odd how people often tell me a story about an image I have drawn that does not relate to my own understanding: but to them that is the story. And I guess that is how it should be: a good story, be it told in pictures or words, is one that the reader, or viewer, can invest themselves within.

This may not be the only book I write about space, there is such a broad story to be told, and so much to learn. I hope, for now, that others enjoy the journey as much as i have.

If you would like a copy of the Apollo book, please drop me a note, and I would be happy to share it.

In the News

Beyond Retail

John Lewis exploring the notion of ‘shop’ as the reality of new models of retail bites every harder: they are anchoring this in ‘experience’, which is surely right. The time when we travel to the artifact is coming to an end, but we may travel to an experience. Why carry something home when it can be delivered the same day? Just this weekend I ordered a book from Amazon early in the morning, and it arrived by dinner time.


This piece was challenging: exploring how empathy may work as an in-group behaviour, reinforcing political, or other, divides. Essentially we are driven to be empathic, but only to those who we hold dear.

On the hook

I loved this story: it’s about the islamic traditions and rituals around ‘paying it forward’, and specifically about bread, and how it is gifted and received. It’s a fascinating read, and particularly as I explore social currencies, I find myself reflecting on the lengths that people go to to hide generosity. The humility of Social Leadership at work.

My Writing

Carrying the Weight

This piece was a reflection after working for the day with a group of young leaders driving diversity and inclusion initiatives in their Organisations. It’s about how there is always a price to be paid, and we need to be clear who will pay it.

Fracturing Narratives

Related to the piece above, this one relates to how we do not need to paint the future state to drive change: it may be enough to simply fracture the narrative of the present.

Culture Game

Yesterday I ran the second full prototype of the Culture Game: the first iteration took place over two days, and this second one over just half a day, so i had to strip it down somewhat, but rather to my surprise it ran to time!

What I'm Reading

My reading has plummeted over the last three weeks, and I’m largely out of excuses: heavy travel, and starting the Open University course on Systems Thinking, have eaten my time. I have actually been reading, but mainly the course notes, and I’ve not been loving every minute of it... in fact, it’s been quite challenging.

I tell myself it’s because I do not think it is well written, and there may be some truth in that, but largely I suspect it is because the worldview presented in the writing does not align with my understanding of the world, so I reject it.

It’s a natural response, but not a useful one when you are trying to learn: I will not be polluted by ideas I disagree with, but I do have to expose myself to them to discover if they change me at all.

I may have more positive news next week: I am starting to find a flow with it, and alongside the academic writing, have started Henry Kissingers’s book on ‘World Order’, which is an interesting read so far.

#WorkingOutLoud on the Certifications

No particular news here, except to report that I have just a few hours work left to complete the Learning Science Guidebook, and have started to scope out the design of a Scaffolded Social Learning Design certification for next year, which I am quite excited about.

What I'm thinking about

Today I have found myself considering the two broadest structural elements of my work: the context of the Social Age, and the notion of the Socially Dynamic Organisation. The first is the ecosystem we inhabit, and the second represents the evolution of an Organisation to be able to thrive within it.

Neither are well defined: I explore the context of the Social Age through the iterating sketch maps, and the notions of the new type of Organisation through the writing on Social Leadership & Learning, social co-creation of culture, collaborative models of change etc. as well as the broader work around social currencies and tribal/social structures of organisation and effect.

Some of these threads of work are becoming quite practical: down to the level of skills and capabilities, even development pathways, but much of it remains to be explored. I often say that the Social Age is not a time for confident answers: it’s a time to learn how to explore, to unlock your curiosity, and to learn how to do so with an evidence base, and rigorous attention to detail in action. This particular hole we will have to learn how to climb out of.

Perhaps a different way to look on this is with an understanding of the evolution of Organisations: much of the landscape we see around us today is industrial, or post industrial, remnants of the last two hundred years or so of scientific management and effect at scale. This structure has adapted: globalisation, efficiency and outsourcing, automation etc, but we must consider that, as the context of work changes, so too must the overarching structure.

The language I currently use is ‘from Domain to Dynamic’, but that itself may evolve over time.

I think that most Organisations get this shift, and many are working hard to react to it, but often becoming mired in historic power structures, or an ability to get to fixed strategy, but an inability to adapt it. In that sense, the nature of constraint is not ignorance, but lack of connected effect. We are busy (everyone is busy...) but ineffective.

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