Bagpuss – energy and leadership

*This is the first of a number of blogs that I’ll publish in the run up to New Year on subjects suggested by others. I had two measures of worthwhileness in my head when I started blogging. The first measure was a number (that I passed last week) the second was feedback from people saying posts had been helpful. I’m delighted to have met both targets and to be seeing out the year with guest topics. The first of these is on Bagpuss, suggested by Kate Griffiths-Lambeth*

Bagpuss (Photo credit: diamond geezer)

I have a sketchy memory of Bagpuss. I know I enjoyed it as a child, but when I was challenged to write a blog on it I confess I had to retreat to Wikipedia and Youtube to help refresh my memory.

First observation – the nature of knowledge

I don’t know how much information and which experiences I’ve forgotten because of the passage of time – and how much I have forgotten because it is so easy to access information today. My daughter remembers things because of the instant access to photographs that she has. We now have the ability to keep the events we want to alive and vivid, by replaying them again and again, whilst deprioritising memories that we know we can access through other means (Wikipedia etc).  Since the time of Bagpuss the value and nature of knowledge has changed. The nature of education is therefore inextricably altered for all time. For those of us lucky enough to live through this period it is a thrilling rollercoaster of change, but it is my daughter’s generation that will be the first to be genuinely be able to make sense of and use of the technology to its fullest.

The knowledge you need now is in three tiers of usefulness

  1. Most useful – knowing a network of people who know where to access the information you need
  2. Useful – knowing where to access information (less useful than above, as network beats individual)
  3. Least useful – knowing things – it has immediacy, but you are incredibly limited in your capacity

This is a brave and counterintuitive new world. The smart people aren’t the ones who know Latin. The smart people are the one’s who know they can go and learn other things and gain new experiences – because Google translate can take care of the rest. We are our own personal librarians, the challenge is to index – not to read and remember.

Second observation – the importance of an organisational Bagpuss

I remembered Bagpuss as being lazy. At the start of every episode we see a shop. Everything is static, the episode opens with Bagpuss giving a big yawn. Lazy.

Except that Bagpuss waking up is the key for everything to shift from black and white to colour and for things to start moving. Everything comes to life when Bapguss wakes up, Bagpuss is the instigator. Bagpuss is an energiser. He may be relaxed, but others follow his prompting and intent.

Be a Bagpuss. Bring colour and stories to those around you – in the office and out. It isn’t about you being the life of the party – sometimes it is just enough to have soul.

PS – I published this early and by mistake, it’s known in the business as ‘NeilMorrisoning’. If you were after my blog on Indiana Jones and The Big Bang Theory you’ll find it here

Raiders of the lost point

The Big Bang Theory is a comedy centred around a group of scientists. It’s more fun than it sounds and it provides a geekiness I find attractive. Last week’s episode kicked off with Raiders of the Lost Ark being ruined for one of the characters by his girlfriend pointing out that Indiana Jones has no impact on the outcome of the film. It was a good film, but Indiana didn’t add much to it.

Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the absence of Doctor Jones the following would still happen. Ark is found by Nazis. Nazis open the Ark. Ark destroys Nazis.

This wonderful and counterintuitive insight that the hero of one of all time classic movie adventures makes no difference to the actual outcome of the entire movie is worth us all reflecting upon.

We follow Jones through a series of adventures, witness him evade death from giant boulders, make charismatic one liners and seemingly drive the whole plot of the movie. Except he is really having his own adventure that isn’t impacting the overall big picture that much at all.

It made me reflect on those days at work when I’ve felt that I have won every battle, vanquished every foe, dramatically avoided the traps set for me around the workplace and been every inch the hero. Then I went home for tea.

So here are a few questions for you to check you are gauging the contribution of you and people around you effectively

  • Did anything actually change due to your incredible efforts to get that person in the project meeting to agree they may have failed to review action point 3.1.2 from last week’s meeting?
  • If you were off sick on any given day how much would the destiny of your company have been altered?
  • How much impact do you actually have on a day to day basis? Be honest now…
  • Are there people in your office being held up as heroes due to their charisma and dramatic interventions rather than their results?
  • Did someone save the last project you were on quietly and without anyone noticing?
  • Do you have the right role models? Or do you look at an individual’s style rather than substance?