1. Why the time is so right to launch Impact Teams…

    September 28, 2020 by Harv

    Timing is the most important ingredient when launching a new venture. More than capital, people involved, unique idea, or passion.

    Timing is not a strong characteristic of mine. Today is always the day to launch an idea, particularly if it’s one I have thought up. Which can be problematic!

    So for me to sit on an idea for four years is unusual to say the least, and it would not have seen the light of day, if not for a super question by Collective Intelligence board member, Andrea de Almeida. She asked me straight up – what idea had I been sitting on? The power of a good question at work there.

    I need to lead with a wee bit of a disclaimer – this stunning idea is not fully mine. Another fella, Anake Goodall (who has a habit of doing smart stuff), whispered it into my head where it grew legs.

    I wrote in a blog back in June that I’d been thinking a lot about ‘the 2040 I’d like to see’, and that we’d created a platform that would allow us to positively impact Aotearoa-New Zealand and its development over the next 20 years.

    Well here it is – our Impact Teams initiative, which distills into action:

    • The best of our Collective Intelligence team methodology – a process that we know really works and have refined over the last 13 years.
    • The cognitive diversity that resides in the hundreds of professionals, entrepreneurs and business people (across 70+ industries and professions) with whom we have worked with. They are experienced, trusted, and understand our methodology well.

     

    Impact Teams Logo

    So, we combine our methodology with the wider pool of awesome people that we draw upon, and apply it to helping organisations across the country achieve their goals in ways they might not otherwise have thought possible – all with genuine (felt) impact.

    This might seem like a simple concept, but it’s taken us 13 years to refine to the point where its power is repeatedly observable in the responses we get from the people we work with.

    Why are Impact Teams the bizzo now?

    • In case you haven’t noticed, the world is a bit unsettled. Sure, COVID is problematic, but it’s a walk in the park compared to some of the big issues brewing.
    • The need for some fresh ‘impact’ creating ideas and methodologies is off the charts; ‘impact’ not with the meaning so often assumed by consultants but ‘impact’ as assessed and felt by the people we work with.
    • The traditional consulting method has remained unchanged for far too long and is tired and exhausted – struggling to reinvent itself and out of sync with the needs of many sectors of the economy and society that are calling out for genuine regenerative change.
    • Not only that, the really game-changing opportunity lies in the fact that research is proving the power of teams in solving complex, pressing problems and challenges transcends that of ‘the experts’ who ‘have all the answers’. Teams demonstrate a collective expertise that is now being redefined in an unbiased and objectively observable way.
    • And finally, we know that well-selected, facilitated, diverse, competent, unbiased teams eat complexity!

     

    How could Impact Teams work for you?

    A bit like Ghostbusters (can you hear the music….?). So, say your organisation has an opportunity or issue you need outside input into. You might be stuck…want to shake things up a bit…gain clarity. Who you gonna call? Yep Gh…… Impact Teams (we don’t have music yet but we’re open to any ideas – hit us with a theme song!)

    Then what?

    • An experienced facilitator of ours will work with you to nut out what and where the focus should initially be.
    • We’ll then call up a team from across the country that’s tailored to your situation. They’ll be dispassionate yet motivated to come together for a couple of days’ immersion in your problem/challenge/opportunity.
    • I won’t go into what actually happens next – because that’s a little bit special. It’s called IP! But it works. We know it works because we’ve been doing it for years within Collective Intelligence during our team host days. Now it will be available to anyone.
    • Here’s a couple of key ingredients that must be in this mix for success:
      • Your organisation must be ready to step up to the plate and embrace the future. If not, then there are lots of traditional consultants who can help you continue with what you are already doing.
      • There will be follow up. It’s called accountability – as much for us as for you. It’s hard to evade accountability over 13 years and we know that mutual trust takes a little time to build.

     

    Who do we want to work with?

    Anyone who is ambitious about the future and what’s possible and the courage to take action! This could be Iwi, DHBs Regional and District councils, Central Government, corporates, SMEs, NGOs and charities (if we can work out a financial arrangement that is workable for us both).

    What’s the level of investment?

    This will be valued on a case-by-case basis with the value and nature of the impact achieved, a key driver.

    Why would you, our Collective Intelligence whānau, want to be part of an Impact Team?

    • It’s fun.
    • It’s challenging.
    • It’s rewarding.
    • You get a chance to make a real (redefined) impact for the people we work with and in turn Aotearoa-New Zealand.
    • You can use your skills in a team.
    • You get to hang out with other cool people, doing stuff that really matters, for a few days.

     

    We’re excited about the potential of this – we hope you are too and invite you to question:

    • What impact do you believe an impact team could have on your organisation?
    • What opportunities may be ‘hidden in plain sight’ because of the current mindset / frame of reference which obscures them?
    • Whose function, role or mission do you think we could offer benefit to most at this time?

     
    We’re now embarking on the beta-testing phase of launching Impact Teams to market, so if you’d like to talk about these questions and see how an Impact Team could help you – get in touch using the ‘Let’s Talk‘ button below. We’re looking for beta-projects from organisations from within our wider ‘Collective Intelligence family’ who have a real need and want to create some lasting change. Our Impact Team will work for free with you and in return will ask you for detailed feedback on how we can refine our process and on-the-ground methodology (and permission to share your project’s story).

    Keen to expand your thinking around this? Join us for one of our free, interactive, online ‘ideas distillery’ webinars where some big thinkers help us take a look at how we’re going to collectively ‘be the change we want to see’. First one kicks off at midday, 15 October with Collective Intelligence member alumni, Professor Alex Hannant of the Yunus Centre in Australia. Register here:

    Or join us for our 2020 nationwide face-to-face ‘chat-over-lunch’ ideas distillery – the first one kicks off at Soda Inc in Hamilton on 13 October. Check our website events page for ticketing details:


  2. Detoxing from the agrarian cocaine – it’s not easy!

    August 26, 2020 by Harv

    Header image: Regenerative Ag consultant, Jules Matthews, getting down and dirty testing our paddocks

    Eighteen months ago I bit the bullet and committed to converting our wee farm, Raumai iti, to regenerative practices. At the time I wrote a blog about why I was converting which got lots of attention. That blog had the added bonus of actually holding me to account, and helping me with staying the course, because this habit has been trickier to drop than I thought.

    And this is why…

    For 30 years I honed the skills of growing and utilising ryegrass and clover. I became proficient at feed budgeting, working in risk management for adverse conditions, and getting the best possible conversion rates to maximise the kilojoules of metabolic energy/kg of dry matter/hectare, and so economic return. I learnt this shit in nineteen hundred and eighty at Lincoln University. It was very modern then.

    Photo 1: Me, and our wee farm, Raumai iti.

    In short form – I was all about grass and clover conversion into meat and wool. The soil was just a thing to grow grass on.

    But a wise woman I know in this field, has now enlightened me with this concept:

    “…the soil is the gut of our plants and like many of us with an upset microbiome in our gut we are seeing the same levels of diarrhoea, constipation and indigestion in our soils as in the human population.”

    So, this new world I have embarked on is totally different. It is about growing healthy soils, and it’s nowhere near as glamorous – initially. In fact, it’s a bit messy, with lots of new plants introduced that I don’t even know much about.

    I could go into the details of our conversion, but that’s not what I want to write about. Instead I’m really interested in my addiction to my old world of instant gratification, and how appealing that is. And there is another aspect to this journey, that I hadn’t predicted. I have become far more interested and attuned to nature that at any time in my farming career.

    Regenerative practices are based around diverse mixes of pasture sward. Sometimes dozens of different species are planted together to emulate a natural prairie-style sward, with the plants mutually helping each other out. This is totally weird to me, as I was raised on a more mono-sward approach.

    But it’s starting to make sense to me, ironically far more than what I was trained to do originally.

    Luckily, I have two people helping me through this conversion. Dennis Nieuwkoop is my go-to for practical help, and providing the seeds and seaweed-based fertilisers I need. And Jules Matthews from Integrity Soils for the analytics and advice. Jules monitors the soils, and measures stuff I have never considered in 30 years of conventional farming. Never.

    Here’s Jules’ definition of what regenerative ag is:

    “To start, let’s define regenerative ag in the simplest terms. It is about improving the whole system function. This includes our natural ecosystem, financial integrity as well as the social and personal aspects of a farming enterprise. Ideally, we will allow guiding principles to be applied in local contexts encouraging ingenuity, adaptability and the full capacity of human creativity. Regenerative ag is not an end goal but a journey of syntropic improvement as we look to restore the balance and function of the world that supports our existence. It is a principle-based approach to farming rather than a rule-based system such as organics. It is measured by outcomes including and not limited to water cycle function, nutrient cycling, biodiversity, animal wellbeing, food quality, economic integrity and social health. It involves a shift from viewing land as a commodity belonging to us to seeing it as a community which we belong to. Our job is to grow our understanding and connectivity both with the environment and within ourselves.”

    Following on from that last sentence of Jules’, here’s the other big surprise – my mental health has benefitted. When I go out into a paddock, I am more observant of what is going on, and it is awesome to see the symbiotic thing happening between plants under my feet.

    However, there are also times I would just love to fall back on using the agrarian cocaine (synthetic nitrogen) and get that big instant fix. I have hit that wall three times in the past 18 months, when my now-natural ecosystem has not been very buoyant, and I just want to get in there and fix it.

    Here’s what Jules’ has to say on that:

    “So how is Harv doing on his methadone programme? After a ‘hiss and a roar’ he was off, taking on new shiny tools such as applying fish hydrolysate, new seed mixes and bale grazing, trading one set of actions and inputs for another. Like many, this has proved challenging as he has looked for all the same indicators that things were going well. Not seeing these he quickly ran to wanting to return to the known method of choice, as short-term results and gratification seem to drive our actions more profoundly than long term commitments.

    Getting Harv to slow down enough to dig a hole and check out the soil life beneath his feet and the health of the plants who are busy transforming sunlight energy into carbohydrates to feed the underground livestock has been a journey in itself. Greater yet is to have him connect with the concept that he is not a sheep or beef or even a grass farmer but rather a sunlight farmer who is harvesting free energy to grow a healthy ecosystem system. For Harv it just got more complex. He now has to consider the needs of the microbes in the soil as he does his feed budgets and actually consider the old adage of “grass grows grass” and how that looks in reality in an adaptive grazing system.”

    What Jules is measuring under my feet (even though it’s new) makes more sense to me than what I used to measure before. What strikes me is how complex a natural farm system is compared to the more industrialised farming approach. Everything is connected and when it is in harmony, the results are magic.

    Photo 2: “You’re developing rhizo sheaths on your plant roots” meant nothing to me 18 months ago. Now I see it as a step towards our soil being healthier and more active, meaning ultimately a higher water absorption and water holding capacity. Image credit: Jules Matthews.

    The joy I got in hearing that we have started to activate our sandy soils (see photo 3 below), is far greater than anything I got growing grass in a prior farming life. Now, we basically farm in a giant sandpit with soils that are low in organic matter and nutrients and to think I am having a positive impact on this environment, while growing food, feels very regenerative indeed. The world needs food and the environment needs rejuvenating, and this system does just that.

    Photo 3: Our sand to soil transition: the darker colour is an indicator of increasing organic matter due to a tailor-made bale-feeding and straw-spreading exercise. Both new to me. Image credit: Jules Matthews.

    Jules’ thoughts on the matter are:

    “What Harv has on his regenerating journey, rather than someone who is just replacing one set of inputs with some that are more environmentally friendly, is his willingness to transform himself through understanding and action. Discovering rhizosheaths (the film that coats plant roots when there is healthy, active symbiosis between plant and microbes) developing on his plant roots on my recent visit had him able to see the impact his new practices are having as biology is quickly turning sand into soil, building organic matter, cycling nutrients and sequestering carbon. Like adopting any new practice, having someone to walk beside you is key to avoid the pitfalls and enable you to see the progress you are making.”

    Photo 4: The bale-feeding and straw-spreading exercise underway.

    What I have witnessed outside the farm gate, is some really interesting behaviour from the establishment. Traditional farmers are either pushing back on regen practices, or saying they are already doing it by rotational grazing of stock. Sometimes they are saying the same thing. Both views I believe are utter bullshit.

    However, there are some really interesting signs out there.

    Greenpeace recently turned up on the doorstep of the Ballance Agri nutrient plant in Taranaki. Greenpeace has a long history of being very smart, strategic protestors about a wide range of environmental concerns. They are well researched and articulate, however can get a little tunnel-visioned (in that it’s not Urea at fault, but rather the management) but what we know is, Greenpeace don’t go away.

    What’s ironic about this protest is that Ballance are sponsors of environmental awards around the country, and I wonder if we will view this in a few years’ time like we do now Benson and Hedges once sponsoring sporting events?

    The big traditional fert companies have a dilemma. Can they adjust quickly enough to the new paradigms of growing soil, rather than grass, or become obsolete – or is there another possibility? Meanwhile there are a bunch of niche fertiliser companies who are growing very quickly, having done their time in the shadows.

    I’m looking forward to our first New Zealand fertiliser company becoming a B Corp in the future. That would be a huge step forward. To be clear, we are lagging behind the USA and Australia in this space.

    So, back to me. I had learnt enough to get started, and kick the habit, but not enough to keep going. That’s why having people like Jules and Dennis are so important to this movement. My concern is that too many farmers bite the bullet and convert, without enough support to stay the distance. That would be such a waste.

    Jules’ says, “What I see is the demand for this guidance is already outstripping the availability of people able to partner farmers in this transition. Just as having the pusher run the detox programme while their income depends on sales is not a good model for success – so we must confront the who, and how, we will guide farmers as they embark on this journey.”

    I had the privilege to interview Rod Oram earlier this year for my podcast. I asked him what he thought needed to happen to combat climate change. His response was very cool, “For people to fall in love with nature.”

    I’m starting to get that loving feeling!

    But I’ll leave Jules to have the final word here:

    “Farming regeneratively is perhaps the most profound career choice a person could make and the least understood and appreciated in our modern world. This is a journey of courage and enlightenment for those who embrace it in its fullness.”


  3. Why I love this bastard Dave Blackwell

    July 29, 2020 by Harv

    And other bastards like him.

    Sometimes life serves up a pile of shite, and it affects everyone differently. The shite comes in many forms, and impacts in many ways.

    Some of the most interesting people I know have faced the most incredible adversity, and I have interviewed some of them in our podcast series Stuff that Matters Now. Often this shite appears at critical times in your formative years, and sets off a response that can be really hard to fathom by loved ones around you.

    Personally I wouldn’t be doing the work at Collective Intelligence if it wasn’t for the adversity I faced as a kid. In fact I wouldn’t have the personal capacity if it were not for that adversity.

    But back to that bastard Dave.

    This month he features on the podcast:

    I wanted to find out how he was coping with the COVID-19 impact as CEO of Spidertracks. As it turns out – pretty well really. Then thirty minutes in he starts talking about his battle with addiction and the 12 Step programme he is going through.

    Now if you listen to it, you’ll hear a very confident CEO talking, and a humble man explaining his journey. But after the interview he was disturbed and raw. Together, but raw. He told me he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to hear it or not. He asked for his trusted teammate Claire Bond to listen to it, and if she was okay with it. Luckily for us Claire said, “This podcast needs to be aired, you would actually be robbing people of something if you didn’t.”

    It is a great listen. Why? Because it’s real life and it is so true for so many, in different ways.

    As a parent, we want to create a wonderful life for our kids. Keep them out of harm’s way. Give them a better life than we had. It’s all quite natural. But in reality, it’s the adversity that moulds us. So how do we bring kids up to be resilient? A lack of adversity is definitely not good for them.

    As a father I saw my role, rightly or wrongly, to be part resilience-builder for my kids. Toughest bloody job in the world being a parent. I was a fucking expert before I had kids. And now I feel I know nothing of parenting. Proud of my kids, but did I do a good job as a father? No idea.

    But back to that bastard Dave.

    I love him for his courage and passion to keep going and face his demons. He is his own person, and gives a shit about creating a better world in his own way.

    Yep, he would have created havoc for those around him over the years. His siblings would have worn it perhaps. Loved ones? Who knows, but he’s getting through on his own terms.

    I get asked from time to time, “Who do you admire most of the people you have worked with at Collective Intelligence?” That’s easy. Reformed addicts. They have been to the bottom of the pit, and come out to face the world again. They are great to work with, because they have done their work, and continue to do their work every day. There’s a lot we can learn from them.

    And here’s a thought that’s bobbing around in my head. In this new world that is in front of us, there’s a new reality emerging: leaders who do not understand their privileged backgrounds will be left behind. Unrecognised privilege will become a huge handbrake for leaders. Another reason Dave is so good at what he does. But more on this in the future.

    Right now, I’m grappling with the idea of writing a book about the learnings from working with this crazy, courageous community of people at Collective intelligence. The title of the book will be something like, “No one’s got their shit together, and that’s okay!” One of our facilitators, Sarah Tocker, also wants to add, “It’s all a fucken facade”…

    But back to that bastard Dave.

    He will definitely feature in the book, because I love bastards like him – and bastardess’s too.


  4. Making it happen – 2040 and beyond

    June 29, 2020 by Harv

    Since March I have been focussed on what ‘opportunities’ COVID-19 is going to offer, and how we make the most of this disruption. Lots of reading and interacting with innovators here and in Australia. I have also had the good fortune to patch in fortnightly as a guest to the Griffith University MBA Road to Recovery + Regeneration Co-creation, facilitated by Alex Hannant and Ingrid Burkett from the Yunus Centre.

    Recessions are a brilliant opportunity to look at new ways of operating. In my back-catalogue of experience, the massive setback we farmers went through in the eighties under Roger Douglas was the most invigorating thing to ever happen in my 30-year farming career. It was definitely shite at the time, but the agricultural sector never looked back once we shook off the dust.


    Image Source: MacKay Cartoons

    So here we are at the mid-ish stage of a worldwide pandemic. Aotearoa has done incredibly well, banding together to eliminate the virus. Five million people coordinated and focussed is a powerful thing. Yes, we are having some wobbles right now, which is bloody frustrating, but I am proud of how we have focussed as a nation on the issue of COVID-19 for the good of everyone.

    Now what?

    The government is doing their thing with plenty of stimulus being thrown at the economy. There will be successes and failures with what they are doing for sure. However, I believe it’s what we do as citizens that will have the most impact on economic innovation. I say innovation because I’m not interested in recovery. I believe the opportunity cost of not responding with innovation is huge. Our fixation with notions of recovery, rescue and resilience and a continual effort to try and replace or recapture what’s been lost, or taken away, is not the right mindset. Instead let’s seek out what we have never tried or had before.

    So, it’s 2020. That’s a couple of decades until we mark 200 years since we signed our founding partnership document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Twenty years is not long, yet it gives us time to focus on some big opportunities and issues. I am hoping to still be around in 2040, and I want to make the most of this time so I can reflect, and say, we have come a long way!

    I want to be able to celebrate an intelligent and unified nation in 2040.

    This is important to me on a number of levels:

    • Collective Intelligence has now created a platform that will allow us to positively impact New Zealand and it’s development over the next 20 years (which I will expand on in good time).
    • And…Aotearoa-New Zealand is one of the more influential countries in the world. We are small, smart, innovative, and have a democracy which is working well. Other countries look to us to navigate a way for them to follow. We need to step into that space with courage, and be confident with who we are, and what we can do that others can’t.

     
    We also have lots to sort out too. Inequality, racism, environmental harm, mental health, infrastructure, the ravages of colonisation… this shite needs focus and innovative responses applied over the next 20 years to be addressed.

    So that I don’t turn this blog into a small book, I’m going to list just some of the areas that I think need focusing on, and share a few opinions on what we can do to get them over the line.

    Here they are in no particular order:

    Focus 1 | Health:

    My Opinion: The NHS is being held up as the gold standard of health by many doctors around the world. So WTF can we not adopt some of / all their practices? Yes, I am naive in this subject, but our hospitals can’t even communicate easily with each other due to different IT systems. Why can’t we have a Ministry of Health that doctors and nurses have faith in, and are proud of?

    My Thoughts: This is possibly because the health sector is being run like an efficient business, and not a robust health provider to the public. There are models of management being operated in health sectors in Europe where Teal management systems are working wonderfully. These Teal organisational systems empower those on the ground in real time to create their own outcomes. It’s just one doable action that would make a positive impact.

    Focus 2 | Government:

    My Question: How do we get the Government (regardless of who is in power) and the bureaucrats, to become more closely aligned with entrepreneurs, and vice versa. ‘Smart Government’ needs to become the norm, where we can get the big levers of central government working alongside smart young entrepreneurs.

    I Say: Banqer and The Blue School are examples of brilliant education initiatives started by young women seeking to improve education outcomes. Give them the resources to get on with it sooner.

    Teaching youth about the power of investing in impact companies (with small investments) would make huge inroads in re-aligning capitalism towards more inclusive commercial models.

    Focus 3 | Green Economy:

    This is clear: Investment into a green economy is a must-have post-COVID. It creates more jobs, and a more robust economy. This article summarises the views of 230 economists from around the world.

    Gone are the days: when Green economics is inferior economics. Yes – there is still much to learn about the green movement, but they have learned a thing or two about economics.

    Focus 4 | Nature:

    This is a no brainer: As stated by Rod Oram in a podcast interview I had with him back in January, ‘we need to fall in love with nature’, and protect and understand her thoroughly.

    I know a little about this subject: Regenerative agriculture is a lever that farmers can use right now, but they are turning away from it because they will need to let go of ego-driven production KPI’s. Regenerative agriculture practices allow for more water and carbon to be stored in the ground and produces more nutrient-dense food. This article points out how it is also great for farmers’ wellbeing and state of mind. I have experienced this myself through my transitioning period to regen ag – get into it!

    Focus 5 | Colonisation:

    I’m gutted: that our jails are full of Māori. There is a direct link to colonisation. Jailing Māori is not working. We need to do something different. An often-quoted stat from the UK really caught my eye: it costs over £40K to send a kid to Eton and over £200K to send the same kid to prison. Just send them to Eton?!

    And so: I have no idea what the answer is here, but FFS, the current system is not working.

    Focus 5 | Infrastructure

    Another Dog’s breakfast: National infrastructure is just too important to be placed in the hands of political parties who often have short-term goals. We are a dog’s breakfast when it comes to investing in infrastructure.

    This would work: Bring back a modernised form of the Ministry of Works (the Ministry of Action!?). Create the capacity for us to build our own infrastructure, in an entrepreneurial way. If we can build yachts that foil, this should be easy.

    Focus 6 | Sustainable Development

    It’s already framed up: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are well thought out by smart bastards and should be understood by all professionals.

    I’m excited: Just this week I have been invited by Toni Grace (who is looking to align our city Palmerston North, with the UN’s SDG’s) to meet with others to look at how we start this journey in our patch. Aotearoa can lead the world in this space.

    Focus 7 | Inequality

    I See: Inequality is a major source of unrest, poverty, poor health and generally f**ked up issues within our country.

    Here’s one solution: B Corp certification is a framework for companies to become a force for good and create regenerative commercial practices – not just look after their shareholders. We currently have 30 accredited B Corps in the country. Get that up to two to three hundred and it would transform our trust in commercial activity, creating more opportunity for talent to find a home

    That’s enough on my list for now. Time for some final thoughts on what we need to DO.

    What needs to change for us to kick-start these opportunities?

    1. Embrace new power: there is a new movement emerging across the world. It shows up in all areas of life, from politics, education, health, civil rights to commerce. It’s called ‘new power’ and is inclusive and hard to resist. We have recently seen it battling ‘old power’ across the world. Trump represents old power – which acts like a currency. Black Lives Matter is new power, and works more like an electrical current.
      We have had our own form of new power on show in Aotearoa in the past 12 months, with old power paradigms making way for new power paradigms. Bob Jones vs Renae Maihi is an excellent example, so too is Fletcher Building vs Pania Newton at Ihumātao.

      I believe there is nothing to fear from embracing new power, other than having to let go of ego and status. In fact, if we as a nation embrace this new power, and become more inclusive, we will smash many of the issues stated above.

      At Collective Intelligence we are about to go full on new power – watch this space!

    2. The age of experts/consultants is in decline: Their relevance is diminishing as issues are becoming too complex for individual experts and consultants to add real value to. Where consultants stumble is that their bias (whether conscious or not) nullifies their expertise.
      For some time, I have wanted to develop a new offering from Collective Intelligence and take our model into the realm of helping large organisations transition and evolve.

      This is a planned iteration of what we do now, with another focal point added – organisations as well as individuals. We will continue to do what we do so well now with individuals, and build our ‘Impact Team’ model alongside that will support organisations.

      We have hundreds of capable professionals in our community to draw on to form these ‘Impact Teams’, who can go and apply our methodology to help create this new future that awaits us.

    So, that’s our next big step in the world, and we are ready!

    What and where do you think we could be applying our new ‘collective intelligence at work’ (Impact Team) methodology to?

    I would love to hear your views, and what it is that you are doing in your field of expertise – what it is you’re focussing on over the next 20 years to create that intelligent and unified nation I’m dreaming of in 2040.


  5. I thought I was an eternal optimist – ha!

    May 27, 2020 by Harv

    It started as a throwaway line, a casual conversation thing…

    Before Christmas I was with my son Guy and his partner Becca, who had prepared a lovely meal, and reflecting on 2019. I was saying how tough it had been having five surgeries in 12 months and I stated at the end, “but of course I’m an eternal optimist”. When I said that I totally believed it.

    But no. My wife Kate interjects with an incredulous look on her face saying, “no, you’re not”, and I’m more than a little miffed with her reaction. I chose to just move on at the time thinking that it was a bit rude and unpleasant, but that’s the end of the subject.

    However, three weeks later Kate and I are having a conversation with Catherine van der Meulen and her partner James Nilson, while waiting for an outdoor movie to start. Cath asks me, “how was your year Harv?” So off I go again and say 2019 was a tough year due to surgeries etc, however, I am an eternal optimist…etc, and bugger me – I get corrected again. This time more forcefully, “No, you are not an eternal optimist!”, by my bloody wife.

    Again, I was a little embarrassed and slightly pissed at this rebuke, however I realised this was completely out of character to be such a …… and I needed to have this conversation out in the open as soon as possible. At this point I thought Kate needed to get her point of view corrected. I’m good like that!

    So, the next morning over breakfast, deep breath, and I ask, “what’s with this, ‘I’m not an eternal optimist thing?’”

    Kate expressed very forthrightly, that what she has had to endure for the past few years has been anything but living with this mythical eternal optimist, and that at numerous times I have been bloody hard to live with, given my depths of despair. She acknowledged that living with continual pain is tough, but really, what the hell was I thinking talking like that? Gentle wee soul that she is – I was totally taken by surprise. However, I was listening, trying that curiosity thing, and trying to be a little more open minded, just.

    The conversation continued over the next few days and I started to reflect on what Kate has had to put up with while I waited for surgery, and then went through it as well. It was a cathartic process for Kate – me, not so much.

    The persona of being an ‘eternal optimist’ was something I took on as a kid. This was my role as the youngest in a family that had gone through some tough times, especially when my older sisters buggered off overseas when I was 14 years old. It was very much part of my chosen identity – be a positive and optimistic son to help my parents when they were not coping. It was a very strong belief that I had of myself, and I never doubted it. So to have this challenged was not easy at all. And bugger it, there definitely seemed to be some foundation for Kate’s opinion.

    But if I wasn’t an eternal optimist, what was I? There was a need to get this sorted in my wee head. I’m like that too.

    More conversation with Kate. Am I a pessimist? Nope she says, “however, you can be pessimistic…”. Yes, I can be. So, I’m not a pessimist, but definitely not an eternal optimist (apparently). Enough talk for me. I start researching the subject which is well written up.

    As I investigate, I find out that the last thing I am, or even want to be, is an eternal optimist. They cause bloody havoc and I realise I have worked with some in the past to great detriment, with them being way too gung-ho and not blessed with enough critical thinking. I was going off this made-up identity thing big time.

    So, if I’m not an eternal optimist, and not a pessimist – then what am I?

    Well maybe a realist? That sounded like a fit for a while. But the problem with this is the title. Realist. I have no idea what is real, or not. It was close but not at all comfortable.

    It’s a bit like people who call themselves a futurist. What the hell is a futurist? No one has been able to foretell the future. It’s nonsense.

    Anyway, I dropped the research and just let things settle. Then out of nowhere, I’m reading Margaret Heffernan’s book Uncharted, which is a ripper by the way, and I come across the following descriptions.

    Heffernan says that psychologists distinguish between two kinds of optimists:

    Explainer optimists – who accept that bad news is neither permanent (things can improve), nor universal (there’s good happening somewhere), and

    Expectant optimists – who see problems but anticipate improvement; and they have a fighting spirit.

    Both are especially productive because optimists are more likely to reach out for help, to collaborate, and tend to trust others – all of which gives them more resilience and capacity than they could ever possess alone.

    I had clarity at last. I’m an expectant optimist! Even Kate agrees, so it must be true.

    One comment that really stuck with me early on in this investigation was a remark from Kate. She said, “I have no idea what you are on the scale, but you are tenacious.” And that is true too.

    So the newly-crowned expectant optimist recently reached out to a number of people seeking help to reframe my thinking and energy. I needed to get my head up and my heart engaged with the opportunities that lie ahead. I got on the Zoom machine and connected with some trusted people. One question from my friend in Melbourne, Andrea De Almeida, was masterful:

    Andrea: “What is the big idea you have been sitting on Harv?”

    Me: Ummmm – what do you mean?

    Andrea: “You are an entrepreneur. You will have an idea you have been sitting on!”

    Me: Ummmmm – yes, well I have actually.

    Andrea: “Why haven’t you activated it yet?”

    Me: Ummmmm – well the timing wasn’t right and I needed a key person to roll it out.

    Andrea: “Is the timing right now?”

    Me: Yes, it is.

    Andrea: “Do you have the key person now to roll it out?”

    Me: Yes, I do!

    And so, the expectant optimist has his head up again and heart pumping, with a plan coming together to create a more regenerative and entrepreneurial Aotearoa in the near future.

    To Andrea I say – thank you!
    To Kate – good call!
    To everyone else – I’ll keep you posted 😉


  6. Collective Intelligence – saving the world from homophily since 2008

    April 29, 2020 by Harv

    Recently a colleague, Gill Dal Din, posed me a question, “What is Collective Intelligence saving the world from?” I didn’t have the answer on the tip of my tongue, but it disturbed me enough to enter my subconscious, with the answer emerging 24 hours later.

    It’s homophily – that’s what Collective Intelligence has been saving the world from for the past 13 years! Homophily broadly means to be attracted to people who are like ourselves.

    There is a theory in sociology that we humans tend to form connections with others who are similar to ourselves in characteristics such as socioeconomic status, values, beliefs, or attitudes. These homophilic silos we create make our communications and relationships very easy and comfortable.

    So why save the world from that?

    Well…it can also lead to lower levels of tolerance for those who are different to us. Homophily can lead to bullying, extremism, and it has been linked to terrorism. It’s easy to feel powerful enough to bully or terrorize, when the individual feels safe and surrounded by like-minded individuals who are believing your shit.

    ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ describes homophily, and ‘group think’ then comes with ease. One magnificent trait of homophily is the ‘echo chamber’ effect. You can see it on social media and the TV news media at times, with people often just echoing what their mates are trumpeting on about and believing it’s true when sometimes it might not be. Just watch Fox News for 30 minutes!

    I had never heard of the word homophily until I read Matthew Syed’s latest book, Rebel Ideas, which focuses on the power of diverse thinking. What gave me a real thrill was the fact he wrote openly about collective intelligence, so much so that it could have been a manual for the work our company, Collective Intelligence, does. Check out the great sketch summary of the book produced by the Visual Synopsis crew here.

    The essence of this blog is a book review of the things that I have reflected upon as a result of this book. I took the liberty of emailing Syed to thank him personally. He responded by saying he was delighted there were others in this space actively practising Collective Intelligence.

    Syed introduced me not only to the term homophily, but also the research of Professor Katherine Phillips of Columbia Business School in New York. Phillips set up a research experiment where she created teams of 4 people to solve complex problems. She created both homogenous teams and diverse teams.

    What did she discover?

    1. The homogenous teams found it agreeable to work together, because they spent most of the time agreeing with each other. They were sure of their answers as they reached a consensus with certainty. Here, homophily acts like a gravitational field, pulling people towards one area of the problem space. (NB: the following 2 graphs are adapted from Syed’s book)
    2. The diverse teams struggled, as they found it cognitively demanding, and they were uncertain if they had got the answers correct as they were more aware of the complexity of the problem. Their cognitive diversity ensured they had lots of coverage across the problem space.

    Professor Phillips results showed:

    • Homogenous teams were accurate 54% of the time, and they were very confident they had got the answers right.
    • Diverse teams solved the complex problems 75% of the time, but with less certainty.

    I see a lot of this within our Collective Intelligence teams. Diversity of thought is hard work and it takes skill to remain in a conversation when you disagree.

    Here is a short interview with Professor Phillips talking about her diversity research.

    Some examples Matthew Syed refers to in his book include the CIA and Bletchley Park:

    • The CIA: a team of intelligent people do not make an intelligent team if they all think the same, for they are just a team of clones. That’s why the CIA was not able to work out what Osama bin Laden was up to prior to 9/11, as the intelligent agents were clones of each other, and couldn’t grasp the scale of threat that a bearded Muslim man in a cave on the other side of the world could pose.
    • Bletchley Park: the opposite existed at Bletchley Park in WW2, where the teams used to crack the German Enigma code were deliberately made up of people from a wide range of backgrounds – people such as academics, musicians, crossword experts and mathematicians. Many of them said it was the most enjoyable time of their lives.

    As a Collective Intelligence meeting facilitator, I have seen people from diverse backgrounds challenging each other’s norms to great effect:

    • A dairy farmer was hosting his Collective Intelligence team and showing off the extent of his empire, milking about 4,000 cows. He was rightly proud of his accomplishments. However, a city-based business person asked, “why have you structured the business with so little spread of income? While the scale is impressive, given your debt loading, it looks bloody risky to me.” A different paradigm and a clear observation from his team member. His action was to decrease his exposure to dairying – fortunately for the farmer as it later transpired.
    • The CEO of a large law firm had his Collective Intelligence team look at how to restructure the business to improve productivity. I had to submit the team’s report directly to the board chair, who was stunned that a team of lay people could critique their law firm in one day, and identify 5 critical areas to work on so accurately. That business took on the feedback slowly but surely to huge benefit as it turns out.

    And here is one of my favourite quotes as a facilitator: an entrepreneur was proudly telling his team that he worked 80+ hours a week. A very astute public servant observed, “But I thought you were good at what you did?” It was such a poignant example of different world views.

    Consider for a moment that humanity has evolved from times when having a dominant leader meant the tribe often fared very well, and that has become the ‘go-to’ now for centuries. As our societies have become more complex, the need for more than one or even just a few dominant voices, is no longer optimal. (NB: the following 2 graphs are adapted from Syed’s book) :

    Research by the Rotterdam School of Management indicates that high-status project leaders fail more often than low-status project leaders. Why? Because there is a lack of opportunity for the team members to hatch rebel ideas due to the ‘highest paid person’s opinion’ dominating those around them. This can lead to cloning – arrrgghhhh!

    However, rebel ideas are the opposite of homophily.

    Rebel ideas come from ideas having sex. This means they don’t just add up, they actually multiply in extraordinary ways bringing with them whole new possibilities. At Collective Intelligence we call this ‘The Adjacent Possible’ and our company logo represents this biological phenomenon of multiplying.

    Having diversity is a great start towards generating rebel ideas and nurturing the adjacent possible growth mindset. This only works if people embrace complex issues with actively open minds and people can disagree, challenge and diverge both honestly and safely.

    The reason our Collective Intelligence professional and personal development model works so well, is that people from across 70+ industries and professions come together to solve and create new possibilities through re-combinations of existing ideas and practical applications. Recombination is not always given enough credit for what it produces as peering into other worlds doesn’t have the same kudos as deep knowledge or learning. However, it is super effective in creating rebel ideas. Learning from others who are different from you, works.

    Collective Intelligence itself is a creation that stems from recombination, as it morphed from the model of farm discussion groups – but now on steroids. I love that irony!

    So, with the world reeling from COVID-19, I am absolutely certain we need to push on with this rebel idea we call Collective Intelligence and help professionals find new ways to thrive in this new paradigm. Whatever comes at us, I believe this model can be at the forefront of a new world designed with radical ideas.

    Evolving yourself to be personally resourced and developing your effective skills, has never been more important I believe. This is something that the Collective Intelligence model excels at honing in its members, as highlighted in this clip by former Saatchi & Saatchi suit, and Business Genetics founder, Ian McDougall.

    For an example of the sort of effectiveness skills we are talking about, check out our “Stuff that Matters Now” podcast resource of Ian McDougall’s. He outlines the results of some outstanding research he undertook with Gen Z on the skills needed for future leaders.

    I’m excited by what some members are working on, developing new paradigms behind the scenes, and looking forward to seeing those emerge. This COVID-19 virus is a disruptor of normality, a chance to examine what is working, what isn’t, what can we dump, and what can we improve. There is a bold new world ahead if we are brave enough to mix with people who are not like us.

    Finally, I would love to hear what readers are saving the world from. Let me know!


    A visual summary of our Collective Intelligence model – saving the world from homophily!
    Evolve yourself and develop your effectiveness skills. Challenge yourself to collaborate and collide in a fun, safe and respectful space.


  7. Nature has finally got our attention!?

    March 30, 2020 by Harv

    So, is humanity paying attention yet? To the little things? To the big things?

    The Great Barrier Reef bleaching didn’t get our attention. The bushfires were dramatic, but they’re old news. There was unprecedented flooding in the UK in the past few weeks, which we haven’t really heard about.

    Then there is this tiny thing that rides around on the back of other biological organisms – lazy bastards can’t even get around by themselves. Well, that really has got our attention and it’s only new, and it’s hardly killed many…yet.

    I’m fascinated that in the 21st century, humanity has been pulled into line by a virus, one that doesn’t even have a great stage name or a dramatic title – just letters and some numbers. Yet here we are, collectively focussed on survival, locked away to stop spreading this thing, and everyone is talking about it – the world over. It’s a first in the history of humanity, that we are all focussed on one thing at the same time. Even if every country is handling it differently.

    2020 is going down in history as…whatever we create from here. The virus is a catalyst for us to change. We can choose now what that change will be. What will we choose I wonder?

    What do I think we have learnt so far?

    • We have an excellent leadership team in Aotearoa right now. From the Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield; Microbiologist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles; Director of Civil Defence, Sarah Stuart-Black; Governor of the Reserve Bank, Adrian Orr; Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, and of course our now battle-hardened Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. What’s so impressive is that you get a sense of coordination and communication from this team, and that is gold right now. As a result, I feel very proud to be a New Zealander.
    • Coronavirus is a natural virus that has mutated from animals, according to the World Health Organisation. The spread has been exacerbated by globalisation, and the reluctance of countries to lockdown quickly and effectively. The love of continued economic growth is directly impacting many leaders’ decision-making.
    • International leaders are now determining how historians will depict them in the future. Some of these leaders will be described as muppets.
    • The differences in national cultures is proving to be a huge influence in how countries handle this crisis. Each nation has the same virus, but different circumstances and responses. From Taiwan to Sweden, the different tactics are fascinating, and will be able to be measured for posterity.
    • Those countries who endured the SARS virus in 2002-2004, where there were 8,000 cases identified and 774 deaths, have got on top of Covid-19 quickly and effectively.
    • The outcomes of different styles in leadership will be magnified, and imposters will be exposed. Already we are seeing this across the globe.
    • Treating hospitals like a cost doesn’t work. We have not allocated enough taxpayer funds to the health sector. In complex environments like hospitals, there is a trade-off between efficiency and robustness. Being robust is the better, safer option. Having a hospital system that is highly efficient, means we are not equipped for something out of the ordinary.
    • Old restrictive barriers are being broken down right now, due to the need for action. Fragile egos are making way for new collaborations and practical outcomes being implemented that were previously stuck. I have already seen two magnificent outcomes from this event in Aotearoa, that I cannot share yet, but both are big steps forward.
    • Thanks to the 2008 financial collapse, our commercial banks are so much more resilient and able to help with the reset of the economy going forward. Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile, described how you can rebuild something stronger after a shock. This is exactly what happened to banking after the 2008 GFC.
    • Adrian Orr, Governor of the Reserve Bank, has done a sterling job over the past 12 months forcing our New Zealand banks to grow their own capital bases by restricting lending. It felt harsh at the time, but thankfully he did.
    • Food production will become the darling of our economy in the short term, hopefully not at the expense of the environment.
    • Going to the office every day is not essential.

     
    My opinions on this are:

    • A feminine style of leadership in this crisis will outperform a more masculine one. An example of this for me, was the early response of Karen and Bettina in our office, which was in stark contrast to my own. They were the driving force of early measures to protect our facilitators and members with kits of protective items at meetings. I listened and went along with it willingly but did not instigate it. Thanks to both of you!
    • And consider the fact that many of our frontline care professionals are women. Often low paid and not given much consideration.
    • It’s going to be super-interesting to analyse how companies and nations come out of this, and I predict a dramatic rise of feminine leadership in both cases. The need for women in more leadership teams will mean safer and more dynamic corporations. We may even see love being a driving force rather than just money.
    • I am not a religious person. However, this crisis is not a random event. This has happened to wake us from our stupor, to ram home that we cannot continue on our previous trajectory of fucking up nature. This is our chance to reflect how precarious our existence on the planet we call home is. What we are facing now is only a drop in the bucket of what nature could do to us, if we don’t stop being such spoilt twats.
    • To survive this situation we are in, history would tell us that being overly optimistic is a mistake. The Stockdale Paradox (as it’s called) was used to describe American prisoners in the Vietnam war, who perished due to them believing they would be rescued by Easter, then Thanksgiving, then Xmas and so on. They became totally despondent when those dates came and went. No one knows what the future holds for us now, but it’s going to get mighty tough at times for everyone. Life is not going back to how it was. Donald Trump for example is optimistic that his country will be back at work soon. There are vaccines being developed. Malaria drugs will help. He would not have survived in a Vietnam prison – unfortunately.
    • While on the topic of Trump: I believe we will find that leaders whose personal commercial interests are put at risk by a shut down, will be compromised in making timely political decisions for the good of the people. In my view, they should be prosecuted if this compromise is found to be accurate and people’s lives are lost as a result.
    • While this is an international disaster, I am very grateful my kids are not in military training now, to go off and fight for Queen and Country.

     
    Going forward I believe:

    • Those individuals and companies who focus on what they can influence, rather than their concerns, will be more effective in their pursuits. In essence – don’t worry about shit you can’t control.
    • National infrastructure is too important to be in the hands of Governments who come and go, focussed on 3-yearly elections. We need a different long-term mechanism to plan and execute building capital assets.
    • This is a time to plan what our future economy might look like. I’m sorry for those in the tourism trade, however, it is not an industry that will make us truly wealthy as a nation long term. If it was a wealth creator, Fiji and Greece would be rich.
    • The farming industry has a chance to lead a resurgent economy based on innovation, and regenerative practices, producing healthy food and produce that sophisticated markets want. This could mean getting rid of old-fashioned stock sales where animals are penned up for a day to be bought and sold. After this they will look like one of the wet markets of Asia to many customers. The Green Party could become the Farmers Party – imagine that!
    • Investing in smart companies should become a national pastime, where we celebrate the crazy things innovators come up with and nurture them to fruition.
    • Collective Intelligence will be at the heart of rebuilding our new future.

     
    And most importantly, being kind is the new cool! Long may it last.


  8. Activating the collective – it’s time!

    February 24, 2020 by Bettina

    That old adage ‘good things take time’ is so accurate when thinking about Collective Intelligence. Our previous CEO, Mary-Beth Robles, instilled in me that we must learn to turn the flywheel every day, not rush, be patient, do things well, and then let the flywheel turn a little quicker each day.

    So, in 2020, after 13 years of careful curation we are about to activate ‘the collective’ in a number of intelligent and elegant ways.

    Why activate the collective?

    Up until now, Collective Intelligence has resembled a group of isolated houses, with 8 or 9 people residing in each house (our teams). Now it’s time to connect these houses into a village, both in the physical space and via technology.

    My dream is to grow our member ecosystem and create a place where an unrelated and diverse range of people can help each other in unpredictable ways, using the power of generosity and trust.

    An ecosystem is a kind of biological ‘being’ with biodiversity at the heart of its engine room. A community that can regenerate and produce results for populations, and a thing of true beauty. Think of the Great Barrier Reef (before it was buggered up). I had the great fortune to snorkel there some years ago. Millions of biological species thriving in an ecosystem that was beneficial for every species that had evolved within it.

    I believe Collective Intelligence can become a thriving human ecosystem, if we add a good dollop of bravery and mix up people from many backgrounds. Our biodiversity is represented by the variety in age, gender, ethnicity, political, geographical, world views, industries, and other stuff like this (that I can’t remember).

    The common thread here is like-hearted people, evolving together to create a better world.

    I have known for some time that there is an underlying trust that exists between our members. They might not know each other, but when they meet up in unexpected circumstances they immediately connect and have a rapport. I love this aspect of Collective Intelligence and it’s time to flick the switch on this.

    How will we activate the collective?

    1) Via our UNconference – 22 & 23 May 2020

    Anna Guenther has been on my case, like forever, to run an unconference. Her point was that our community has such an amazing range of people, doing very cool things, so imagine what could happen if we got them all together in one place? Agreed! However, I have been holding back to make sure we got the right time to launch it.

    The time is right, with an experienced, talented and dedicated team to pull it together. The interest is there from members and the public and as I tour the country, I love asking people what sort of conversation would they like to host? Or what would you like to learn? The responses have been varied and lively. I blogged about my first experience attending one and why it appeals back in November 2019.

    Youth (<18 years) will be welcomed, scholarships will be awarded for inspiring change-makers that are short on resources, and it’s open to anyone who is interested in participating in two days of real, interactive sessions focussed on creating a better world. Inclusivity is something we practice at Collective Intelligence, so expect to be involved in whatever capacity you choose. Our event website has all the details, and Anna and I will be conducting a Facebook Live conversation that you are all welcome to join – head to our Facebook page on 2 March at 7pm. You will be able to ask us questions and get answers instantly.

    Need no more convincing? Get your tickets here!

    So, that’s the face-to-face element of connecting our village, what about the technology one?

    Later in the year we will be launching our:

    2) BAP = Business Asset Platform (name under review)

    This is a concept I have wanted to instigate for the past 5 years as I’m the only person, sitting in the middle of the community, who gets to see all its magnificent parts.

    I have manually connected people and businesses up many times, to great advantage to all involved. It’s left me wondering how to connect members and our community, without having a flurry of emails storming my Inbox.

    Well some clever buggers in Hawke’s Bay are developing a tech platform as you read this. It will be a secure platform for members to display assets for others to see and if agreeable, hopefully for use as well.

    What sort of asset? Anything that may help another person or business. This could range from a professional skill, governance experience, commercial application or tangible things like holiday homes. Most assets are woefully underutilised, and under-connected. Especially to the right people.

    The platform will have two main values underpinning it – generosity and trust. These will be our gateway values and will need to be respected at all times.

    The aim is to create so much more value to members and our surrounding community. We’ve got a way to go to explain the full extent of its function and value. However, testing will get underway very soon with a select team of critical thinkers. I’m super excited about the potential of this ‘un’social media platform.

    To me, both these approaches are aimed at creating a modern village, with you at the heart of it, a place where old-fashioned values help us to help each other to achieve what we want to achieve.

    Simple eh! Watch this space and I look forward to seeing you all in May.


  9. Why comedians are vital to the future of a civilised world

    January 28, 2020 by Bettina

    If I went back to university I would love to study comedians, if that was an actual curriculum? I don’t know…so I had a wee look around, but to no avail. Their understanding of what makes us laugh, their timing, irreverence, ability to develop simple ideas, make us uncomfortable, and still keep us engaged is a fascination of mine.

    I have marvelled at the guts comedians show in getting up in front of a live crowd, or via media, to make us laugh. Yep, it would be intoxicating to be able to do that but to break the ice must take so much practice and talent.

    Think about it. You can’t go about repeating the same joke, like a musician can play the same song. It needs to be fresh and new. Sure, if they do a tour they will repeat gigs, but it soon becomes an old joke.

    Then there is parody, and satire (an extension of this craft) which can be offensive and super-uncomfortable. However, taking offence is a privilege when it comes to humour. Where is the boundary? Who knows? That’s all part of the gig. Sometimes it’s not even funny and yet still brilliant.

    They can be tortured souls these comedians. Beneath their funny exterior often burns a very complex and intelligent being wanting to shout at the world. Spike Milligan comes to mind here.

    To me, laughter is a lubricant and makes my life so much more enjoyable. I will often search YouTube for great comedy, especially after a tough week. If I had to choose to watch only one type of media for the rest of my life, it would always be a comedy!

    So why write about this now?

    Because right now a couple of comedians are taking on the establishment and making an impact. Another (recently deceased) had ‘predicted’ the troubles in Australia for quite some time.

    Let’s start with Ricky Gervais, who came to fame writing and directing The Office. He comes from a very humble background and is very proud of that heritage. Never leaves it behind him, and it is very much a part of who he is.

    Gervais has risen through the ranks, from being a cringe-worthy comedian to a highly insightful observer and brazen commentator on his contemporaries. I have often heard him say to his colleagues – don’t be giving advice to the masses, as you have no credibility to discuss what normal people think and do. You are only entertainers, and nothing more.

    Recently I think he hit an all-time high at the Golden Globe Awards 2020. It’s the fifth time he has hosted the awards and he was at his best. In case you missed it, here is the clip (if you are short of time (or don’t particularly like him) skip to 6:30).

    In his speech he likens Amazon, Apple, and Disney to ISIS, because of their corrupt practices behind the scenes. He said this to some of the most powerful people in entertainment, including the CEO of Apple – Tim Cook.

    He then tells the actors not to give political speeches if they win an award, because they essentially work for corrupt companies and so do not have a credible platform to do so – all to their faces.

    It’s one of the ballsiest things I have ever seen, and big ups to him. This is not sledging on social media – this is live to the world with nowhere to hide.

    He has called out Weinstein in the past and now the mates of Epstein. This is so uncomfortable because most others are not. The privileged go along to these awards all the while turning a blind eye and not calling high-status people out. Think Prince Andrew – how many knew about his behaviour and yet how many young women were victims of his?

    The next comedian I want to highlight is Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of Ali G and Borat, and a whole bunch of other great work.

    I watched the film Borat three times when it came out. It was so brave to go into the USA and take apart some of the most iconic institutions – such as the bible belt and rodeo folk.

    This man is a genius at exposing flawed thinking amongst people all over the world. I have heard people say they didn’t find Cohen’s characters funny – my reply was ‘it doesn’t need to be’ and ‘sometimes that’s the whole point.’

    Recently he has been calling out Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for the effect he is having on democracy and escalating hate speech. I believe this is more impactful than the senate hearings conducted over the last couple of years, as it connects directly with the heart of the issues.

    Cohen (who is Jewish) has suggested that if Facebook existed in the 1930’s it would be promoting the Nazi Party, and suggesting it was just freedom of speech. It’s a hell of a thing to say, and incredibly poignant. His first speech out of character is a ripper. Brave, clear and eloquent.

    All the hallmarks of a great comedian.

    Let’s come a little closer to home with the late John Clarke, and New Zealand comedian and satirist who lived in Australia. Like Cohen, Clarke started out with a frivolous character Fred Dagg, and became more edgy with his TV show The Games, and then a series of interviews as a range of characters in Clarke and Dawe.

    Have a watch of this. Remember Clarke has since died and the clip on climate change below was filmed in 2007, but it’s absolutely on the button:

    He had much to say on other environmental issues too: The US Oil Spill (2010), The Front Fell Off (2010), and It’s the Planet, Stupid (2016).

    Like the previous comedians, Clarke had a huge social and environmental conscience and was game enough to use his genius to do something about it.

    So, what do we all need to develop in ourselves to call out issues we care about? The tool that all these comedians use is the ‘bridge’ of humour – it keeps us engaged while they deliver a very clear message.

    I’m pondering on what bridge can we, the public use? Just being righteous is not enough to get the message across. In fact, it can achieve the complete opposite. For me, I’m going to be more aware this year of the opportunities I have to influence and, I’m going to start by being better informed and less judgy.

    What are you going to do?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    7 February Postscript
    Well, if you’re Anna Guenther, you would call me out for this blog having too much of a white and male focus (which I was aware of, but I hadn’t come across suitable material (so I thought) Was I looking in all the wrong places?).

    Anna introduced me to these two artists and is OK with me adding them as a postscript to this blog crediting her as the source. Thank you Anna.

    Please watch these. Two different comedians, two totally different styles that use immense bravery to get across some fabulous messages.

    Hannah Gadsby on comedy and tragedy

    Nazeem Hussain at the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival


  10. What I learned from “my year as a bloody pin cushion”

    December 13, 2019 by Bettina

    A few weeks ago, I turned the ripe old age of 60! Yes, thank you, thank you. What it means is that I have stayed awake for a long time – but I’m still (maybe) not yet woke.

    My health over those 60 years has been reasonably good. Had the odd broken bone, a few dislocated joints – but hey, farming was a tough profession on the body. Had one proper bout of flu, as an adult, which was epic, but I would say on the whole my physical health has been pretty good.

    My mental health has been a little more erratic, often due to fatigue, and working too much. On reflection this was due to needing to be busy and not facing up to some difficult situations in my life. I think my work ethic was motivated more by negative thoughts than positive ones and working kept me numb enough to get by.

    This only spilled over into depression once (that I am aware of) when I was so stretched looking after three farms, fulfilling board of trustees’ duties, and trying to be a father. The doctor put me on antidepressants as a fix, which I started, only to find it evaporated my libido. At that point I thought shit, now I am sick, so I stopped taking the medication and sorted my workload and attitude out. The body is an amazing thing to witness, when given the chance to heal itself.

    I heard an excellent quote a year or so ago, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” Hell yes. Little did I know.


    Some maintenance work in progress…

    Twelve months ago, the body was giving me lots of signals that some serious maintenance was overdue. The bad hip I had put up with for 20 years was slowly getting more painful and stiff. My wife Kate kept saying, ‘get it replaced, as you will wear out your good hip’. Yeah, yeah, whatever.

    My heart also had this annoying habit every month of going into a spasm, officially called atrial fibrillation – this can cause strokes and other nasty stuff. I took a deep breath and thought if I want to have a half-decent, productive and active life from now on, I need to deal with these two conditions.

    The plan was to get the heart reset with a surgical procedure, before getting the arthritic hip replaced three months later. Boom – easy as. The heart surgery went really well. Thirty hours in a Wellington hospital, a little discomfort, but in the scheme of things it was a walk in the park.

    I was like, “next”!

    That would be the x-rays for the hip. I lay on the table and naively said, “you only need to x-ray the right hip.” The nurse said, “well, while you are here, let’s just do both.” So, off I go to see my new GP (who doesn’t know me at this stage). I pompously announce, “I need surgery on my right hip which is arthritic.” This new GP is an English woman with that wonderful English humour, who promptly laughs at me and informs me both hips have severe arthritis. I thought she had it wrong! I was in denial, and thought, “something is not right here!”

    That was December 14th, 2018. One week later I was walking along a golf course and my good hip ‘seizes’ up. No immediate pain, but I can’t move and have to be put in a cart to get back to the club house.

    To say my best-made plans turned to shite would be an understatement. As it transpires, I have now had two hip replacements, a frozen shoulder worked on with physio and acupuncture for six months and not yet resolved (with surgery possible), and Dupuytrens in both hands rectified with a series of injections.

    All in all, I think I have had about 150+ needles in my body in twelve months and I’m getting a little sensitive. Ouch!!

    So, what have I learned from all of this?

    • 50 years ago, I would be buggered. My physical health would have deteriorated rapidly, and life would have become very restricted and painful.
    • Constant pain is tiring, and after 12 months I have got a little worn down with it all.
    • The skill of our surgeons and medical staff is bloody impressive. What they have achieved with me is hard to fathom.
    • In recovery it’s the little things that make a huge difference. A friend of ours is a geriatrician, and she was kind enough to drop off all sorts of gadgets which made a huge difference.
    • My personal resilience, when worn down by multiple events, makes me very vulnerable and it still takes me by surprise. It’s the combination of random events that is a stumbling block for me.
    • In June I had some events overlap that were not scheduled, which meant my limited stamina was stretched to breaking. I remember thinking I would do anything for a burst of energy, and reflected that I could understand why professionals resorted to using methamphetamine as a crutch. What a spooky thought.
    • Being able to express how I feel is a wonderful release of energy and helps me recover. So why is it still difficult to do?
    • There is nothing better than people connecting to see how you are doing – always nice to receive.
    • Getting flowers from one bloke to another is ace! Thanks Keith.
    • Without support throughout the critical times by Kate, I would have struggled to keep it together. After the first hip operation, with on-going spasms and the mosque attacks, I was finding it very hard to stay positive – thinking I had months of rehab ahead and did I have the resolve?

     
    My year highlighted the gap between those that can afford health insurance and those who can’t. Southern Cross has invested about $120,000 into my body, allowing me to chose when I have surgery. In the public system the surgeons and nurses (we love nurses) are just as good, but I wonder where I would be up to in getting through my list?

    Now I’m an old bugger, and if you’re reading this and you’re not, here’s my ponderings for you:

    • 20- and 30-year-olds: right now you feel like you are invincible in the physical department. It’s true to a point, but whatever you do to the body in these years shows up later on. Both good and bad. Form good habits as early as possible – meditation, exercise, diet, and learn to chill.
    • 40+-year-olds: this is the time of life when you often realise that you’re no longer superman (or woman / person!), and your recovery times are not what they used to be. Time for a recalibration on the hours you work. You may have a family now, and if you don’t spend time with them now, you’ll never get it back. The body will be sending you signals – learn to listen to them and do something about them.
    • 50+-year-olds: this is when the niggles and the lack of preventative maintenance start to show. The body starts to ache, and you just don’t move the same. Time to stay on top of those regular health checks and monitor all sorts of areas of the body you once took for granted. Let the GP’s do their thing, plus colonoscopies and prostate check ups just aren’t that bad. Get on top of any niggles early.

     
    NB: these off-the-cuff thoughts of mine do not constitute or substitute for a real chat with your health professional.

    As I write this, I just got clearance to drive again after surgery, and having that independence back is just wonderful (and the staff in the office think so too!). Yes, I have an unresolved frozen shoulder issue, but we have a plan for that.

    Now to rest-up in earnest over the New Year and look forward to 2020 and beyond. Hope you’re all planning to do the same.


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