The Goblin King Discount

If you watch the film Labyrinth then you will see David Bowie stealing a baby away and then telling a 15 year old girl that the baby only gets to go back home if she submits to his wishes. Let that one sink in.

I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say

Ah… The romance.

Apparently the film folk are talking about a reboot – but I think we all know that if that overall concept was pitched in isolation for the first time today it wouldn’t get very far. It is, at a base level, creepy. Two doses of ‘child in peril’ isn’t very likable.

However… I dare you not to enjoy Magic Dance

And I dare you not to enjoy David Bowie in this.

Because it’s David Bowie. And that man had a charisma rivalled by few.

My contention is that we let people get away with more if they are charismatic. We let people get away with more if we can frame other elements of their contribution in a more positive way. We don’t see Labyrinth as super creepy because it’s Bowie. We are distracted – and we want to be.

“Oh, that’s just x being x” is a story that’s easier to tell than facing into the problematic nature of the Goblin King. All too often we afford societal and organisational Goblin Kings a mental discount to keep them within our own frail boundaries of acceptability.

Perhaps the Arctic Monkeys articulated this double standard most clearly in A Certain Romance

Well over there, there’s friends of mine
What can I say? I’ve known ’em for a long long time
And yeah they might overstep the line
But I just cannot get angry in the same way

We are human beings. I’m describing human nature. This is a reminder, not a revelation.

But as leaders or working within HR I don’t think we can just allow for the Goblin King Discount these days (if we ever could) and as catchy as their Magic Dance might be.

Books and learning

Over the past few weeks I’ve been gradually moving my ‘business books’ into the office. I operate a lending library (and have for a number of years) where anyone can borrow a book if they

i) promise to return it

ii) leave it for me to put it back in its proper place (they are classified by interest/area and then broadly by thematics within that, I’m a geek)

I’ve had a few books go missing over time, including a couple that had sentimental value, so there has been a cost. Also books are heavy – so it means many mornings of carrying a very heavy rucksack to work – my aching back is current cost.

The benefit is that I love being surrounded by books and I love helping others either learn or just enjoy. I also think that books help build relationships – you have shared mental models and stories that can be shorthand for explaining situations. Our comms lead has just returned a book, then followed up with an email full of ideas they would like to test. That is the kind of thing that really brightens my day – and all I have to do to enable that is have books about.

My default position on the often asked ‘Who is responsible for people’s development in work?’ is that as a bare minimum the organisation is responsible for signposting the opportunity and making it accessible. A big pile of books and an email to colleagues to say ‘help yourself’ covers that off.

I don’t read enough these days. Or I read less. And I was pondering on how when you have read past a certain point concepts simply become an amalgam. I don’t know (sometimes) whether what I’m saying is something someone told me or I read or I’ve experienced. Recently I’ve taken on some business areas that I’ve had less direct experience with – and I find myself revisiting techniques and analysis that I can’t remember the source of at all. Frameworks out of thin air.

Early in my career I could remember which author gave me which insight. Now my mind is a jumble sale of concepts and I often ponder as to whethermy beliefs are a patchwork quilt from that jumble sale – fragmented and largely unplanned.

Books remain beautiful to me. I’m not fussed about whether you are using a kindle or picking up a hardback – what matters is that you are open to new ideas and concepts and that you never lose that love.

Books are cool.

Convenience will prevail

One of the most important elements of the way we think and choose is that our stated long term preferences simply aren’t always aligned with our immediate actions. I’ve just been reading a piece on the future of gaming services and it contains a CEO stating “Convenience will prevail”. There is a worrying and profound truth bundled in those three words.

I’m sure that as you are reading my blog you must be a wonderful person. You do the right thing. You stand up for the weak whenever you can. You challenge inequality every single day. You are an ethical consumer. Any excess income gets diverted to worthy causes. You eat healthily. You make sure you follow the news so that you don’t accidentally watch a film that might tacitly show support for abusers. You keep a balanced view on things and avoid faux outrage (or even judgment) until you possess all the facts. I get that you are great.

I guess the problem must be everyone else because it seems that we have a combination of short term thinking and convenience driving aspects of our group behaviour from tech choices right through to climate change that leaves us in a very tricky place.

I see people trying to do right – yet I see our aggregate societal movement too reflective of convenience rather than the ‘right’ that is described. It’s tricky. It’s particularly tough to know how much leeway we can afford in order to indulge ourselves now without understanding the future cost – that cost that accrues to ourselves and generations to come. It’s tricky and it’s challenging and hard to work out.

So I’m going to have a sausage sandwich and just sit on the sofa for a bit. I guess convenience will prevail.