The edge of control

… works if you’re a rally driver – some of the time. Spend much time there and you will crash, which is fine if you’re driving for sport and crashing is part of the game. But if you’re going a long way and taking people with you, you’ll need to drive within your limits. It’s obvious. So how are you…

Resource: The Data of Long-lived Institutions from The Long Now Foundation

This is an interesting set of pieces of information about the kinds of institutions that last a really long time, and the strategies that allow them to do so. Transcript here. A couple of extracts below to whet your appetite, and video below them. Which institutions last the longest? …There’s no system in the world that I’ve found that is…

Article: The Guardian Long Read on The White Helmets

This article – about the tragic death of James Le Mesurier, co-founder of The Mayday Rescue (also known as The White Helmets) – is both an inspiring story of a life of service and a dispiriting account of cynical politics at its worst. It’s also a good example of the administrative challenges of work in NGOs in contexts where most…

Responsibility: who pays?

Taking responsibility means that you commit to doing what’s necessary to make something happen – and that you pay for your mistakes. We are often reluctant about the second part – I think with good intentions. But if people keep making the same mistakes at someone else’s expense, there’s a good chance that they don’t really understand the cost. Having…

Freedom to the nose (2): stealing at work

How free are you at work? How free are the people you’re responsible for? “As free as possible,” is a good answer, but there are some clear limits: no-one is allowed to hurt people physically (freedom to the nose) or to steal the property of the organisation (or other people). Intangible theft – stealing time, for example – is harder…

Orders of magnitude / next size up

There are lots of things that are easy enough to do once. Doing the same thing a second time can be almost as big a step: you’ll have learned some useful lessons the first time round but might also have used up non-renewable resources (available time, money, enthusiasm) or discover that you’ve picked the lowest-hanging fruit. If you’re serious about…

Net vector

They* say that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. It might even be true, although I’m wary of the implication that we should leave the other people behind.** The question for each of us is – in your family, friendship group, workplace, tribe – which way are you pulling, and how do…

New challenge, old challenge

I am pretty good at new challenges. Most of the time, I rise to them. I enjoy novelty. I like a challenge. It’s stimulating, creative work, and progress is rapid. I’m not so good at challenges that go on longer than I think they should – long enough that the the return on my effort starts to diminish, or that…

Systems thinking: Peter Senge on the limits of learning from experience

The most powerful learning comes from direct experience. Indeed, we learn eating, crawling, walking and communicating through direct trial and error – through taking an action and seeing the consequences of that action; then taking a new and different action. But what happens if we can no longer observe the consequences of our actions? What happens if the primary consequences…

Systems thinking: Gall’s Law

Gall’s Law: A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system. As described by David Perell in his very interesting 50 Ideas That Changed My…