Captain's Log Issue #79 - Returning

Julian Stodd, July 2019

So, I’m back. And I’m trying to avoid talking about the baby too much... so forgive me if I start by talking about the baby...

I’ve come back to work after three months of paternity leave, time when I have been focussed entirely on my new family, and the transition back is an abrupt one.

In the last Captain’s Log, which I published on my last day of work, I shared my fears of paternity: will I lose relevance, will I lose momentum, will I lose work, and so on: a list of fears that largely evaporated as I held my son in my arms.

Of course, as my friend Kate reminded me today, one reason my fears evaporated was because they are transient: as a man, people smile and coo as I recount my generous paternity allowance, and treat me as special when I wheel him into cafes. In the village, I feel like the celebrity (if token) dad. Despite our best efforts to parent as a team, the impact is likely to be stronger, and more persistent, on my partner. We are equal, within an unequal system.

On Twitter, someone suggested to me that it’s not the role of the state to support parents: indeed, he said he felt lucky to have been able to save up his holiday to take time out. Perhaps in his reality that view works, but it’s not a position that I could hold.

We should not rely on luck to do that which needs to be done: the burden of unpaid support work is borne overwhelmingly by women, largely because of a system that is structurally biased, something that Caroline Criado Perez has explored in superb detail in ‘Invisible Women’, a book that I consider to be a book of it’s generation. Relying on luck, and good intention to change that, is likely to be a long haul.

If we want our Organisations to be more fair, it will be down to us to make them that way. And if we want a more equal society, then we must build it.

On a more positive note: being a father is incredible. Nothing brightens my day as much as his smile in the morning, and nothing rends my heart so much as his cry.

I’m adjusting, almost scared of my vulnerability in this new space.

Naturally, I am experimenting on him already: seeing the emergence of consciousness is magical, and finding our way into communicating with each other is just a joy. I realise that my writing suffers from hyperbole when I write about him, because there are only so many times you can say ‘magical’ without it straining.

I hope that my experience of fatherhood will help me retain a humility in outlook and approach. It’s certainly very grounding. And above all else, well, forgive me, but magical.

My Writing

I’ve started a new project this week, something that has been gestating for a while: it’s the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, and I wanted to draw out some reflections on leadership based around this.

I also wanted this to be a little more in depth than the daily writing, so more fully referenced and researched. This week I have shared three pieces:

This first piece is the 'Introduction’, which sets the context:

The second piece will form the first chapter, on ‘Isolation’. It reflects upon Michael Collins, the ‘third’ Apollo 11 astronaut who never landed on the moon, but instead holds the distinction of being the most remote person there has ever been:

This third piece explores ‘Storytelling’, and considers how Apollo is a story told on many levels, from the bombastic national narrative, to the very personal stories of fear and failure:

In The News

Old Human vs New Human

This piece frames the challenge (in a military context), about new digital skills, and mindset, versus legacy. I don’t fully agree with the whole premise, but certainly at a neurophysiological level, we are changing, as we are connected in different ways. I certainly believe that the ways we learn, from the earliest age, impact our overall conception of humanity.


Ok, so this is slightly late news now, but I wanted to pass comment on it: Jonny Ive’s departure from Apple reinforces one feature of the Trans-Nationals, that they tend towards more dynastic structure than the older Domain Orgs. It’s probably a key feature of their strength and momentum, but one that markets are not yet fully comfortable to price in.

#WorkingOutLoud On The Certifications

With the third, and fourth, cohorts of the 'Storytelling Certification’ now getting started, my focus is shifting to the ‘Modern Learning Capability Programme’, the most ambitious of the five programmes I’m launching this year.

I’ll be working on the design over the next three months or so, and have a prototype group ready to go. I’m hugely excited about this programme: whilst I have the outline, and many components, in place, there is still a lot of work to do to draw it together. It takes me into new areas of connectivity as well, so will stretch me, which is good.

I have previously shared the outline here, although I expect it to evolve:

In terms of my approach, it will likely run like this:

  1. I already have the ‘research buckets’ in place - categorised research and resources, which keep building out over time, and will ultimately help me iterate it over time.
  2. I will likely write a series of blogs on each module as I find the ‘narrative’ thread.
  3. In time, these blogs will inform some Open Sessions - typically small groups that I use to calibrate and refine content - I normally expect only about 40% of content to make it through this barrier!
  4. I’ll take all that and build out a series of Guidebooks, one on each of the core topics I expect.

I’ll #WorkOutLoud through the whole process, which I hope will not be too boring, but I’m excited to get going on this at last.

What I'm Thinking About

I was very taken by a passage in Richard Holloway’s book on ‘Godless Morality’, where he discusses the role of priests and prophets. Priests hold doctrine steady: their role is to protect the status quo, the word as law, even as contemporary context evolves. Prophets inherently disrupt the doctrine: indeed, they bring new chapters to it. They write new words. It’s no great leap to view the challenges of change, that are faced by Organisations, through this lens.

How do we hold true to that which we know (something that happens as Organisations persist in their current state beyond the point at which they should logically change or fail), that which keeps our faith pure, whilst hearing the heresay of the new. The ‘new’ that we may need to hear to adapt for the new world.

In parallel with this, I’ve been reading more economic theory, and was struck by the notion that the free flow of information is vital for a healthy free market (if the flow of information is limited, it can be exploited by the minority to prosper at the cost of the many). Organisations exist often as arbiters of the truth: systems of belief, and prosper through the control both of information, and the channels that it flows through.

The social context of Organisations fragments this truth though: information flows through social channels around and despite of the control of formal ones. Secondary markets prosper through the grey economy of knowledge.

Where is this taking me? Nowhere in particular yet, but I have a sense that it will.

Later this year I hope to finally publish ‘The Change Handbook’, which builds out the context of the Socially Dynamic Organisation, and this type of work, considering how the social structure works, what economies it trades in (beyond money: economies of trust, pride, empathy, etc), and how it changes, may be useful. Maybe it will inform the sequel!

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