On this week’s show we speak to Roland Harwood about liminal things and places.
You can find out more about Roland’s business Liminal here: https://www.weareliminal.co/
And his podcast On The Edge is here: https://www.weareliminal.co/ontheedge
This is an automated transcript, so there may be errors, some of which might be hilarious. That’s just the machines taking the rise…
Chris: Hello and welcome to the latest episode of WB 40. And here we are, again another recording and as the nights are well, not exactly getting a great deal. I too, it’s pitch black now, but it’s starting to creep in as it was starting to get a little bit more of a, of an evening. And it’s been one of the, one of those weeks where basically the same things happen that happens every day, but not how’s it been for you?
Matt: Hey was quite last week launched a new website, which had been about five years in the making. As far as I can tell it predated me. It was good to get that one done. That was exciting. Hung a mirror. I hate DIY. I keep seeing these things on the internet. I know that it’s probably because everything I do is tracked and deeply processed, but there’s this thing, this device that keeps getting advertised to me on Oh, that yellow Twitter, the yellow magic.
And so I hung this mirror and of course it starts off by being, not quite plastic ball, but not a solid wall. It’s harder than plasterboard. I don’t know. I think it’s the original construction of the building. And then trying to put things into play. And then of course, one of them’s about half a millimeter lower than the other one, and it’s a 1.2 meter mirror.
So by the bottom, my wife, nice, this, these things. So that’s a skew and then trying to work out what you do cause you’ve got plasterboard holes, but it’s just it’s my idea.
Chris: When you bought that for a company, you knew what you were getting into.
Matt: I didn’t realize it was a hollow waffle. I work in software for reasons and, mostly my crashing competence than anything physical.
Yeah, that was stressful. And then apart from that yeah, it’s just one day forms in Tim for another one, much like any other in this endless repeating cycle of. Sunrise and sunset had some scaffolding put up around the front of the house, having a bit of roof replaced.
That was exciting. That is exciting. Haven’t bought any shares in a failing. On a physical shop business, and now haven’t bought anything in sh in silver, either which apparently where all the cool kids have read it and are plowing their money. It’s better to turn over the global financial systems, not involved in that.
Haven’t got any Bitcoins. There wasn’t any the wiser, when. Elon Musk said that then it
Chris: was after. And then that’s which has been a fairly a, been a bit of a backwater for a long time. And suddenly it went up like 200% or something like that.
Matt: Yeah. I’m glad to hear that. I’m just, I’ve not been into that new iOS only.
What was it called? Social club or something? Shop club chat house.
Chris: Yeah. How many 20
Matt: nos? I feel I might be letting myself down in terms of being on the cutting
Chris: edge. Yeah. And olden, like the whole thing about what I w I once was I was with it and then what it was changed and now everything’s scary and I don’t know where I live or something like that.
Matt: Yeah. Anyway, so this is now turning into the bit and the Muppets. So that’s two old
Chris: boys has really upset it. Really? Yeah. Anyway, look, come on. Let’s stop this. We’ve got a guest. We’ve got it. We’ve got an honored guest. Somebody has to talk sense in between all this nonsense Rowland hall with how they Roland.
Nice to see you. Hi, Chris. Nice to see you.
Roland: I didn’t realize this was mostly DIY podcasts.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. The home improvements. It’s mainly drywall and things like that, but yeah. And how’s your week been?
Roland: My week’s been it sounds similar, the trudge of lockdown, I think But we’re getting that it’s February that psychologically means something I’ve survived dry January, which I feel quite smug to that, to be able to say that I think we’ve
Chris: all survived.
I genuinely, I’ve never been tempted to touch a drop. It’s not, it was no hardship. I was just notice the height yesterday
Roland: and I have downloaded clubhouse and I’ve tried using it, but I don’t think I’m cool enough or. Yeah, I haven’t seen why I really should use it other than it’s a new thing and Elon Musk is using it.
And yeah, no, I’ve made a few, maybe big decisions, which I might talk about. We’ll see how it goes in the last week, which I’m quietly confident and excited about. So yeah, it feels like there’s lots of bubbling away below the surface, but above the surface, it all looks as it did the week before.
Chris: So some sort of, as a bit of a draw is a win at the moment. I think in the,
Matt: how about you, Chris? How’s your week been?
Chris: Oh, it was it was quite busy. I see quite a lot going on various events with work and trying to record try to record a keynote for one of our events, but I am still not at the point where I’ve reached that kind of Oneness with doing video events, because one, when you speak at an event, normally you, your just stood there and you can see the audience.
And even if half of them are on their phone, looking at their email, they’re not really paying attention. You can find somebody who’s got, who’s desperate enough to listen and then you can get some sort of feedback trying to deliver that sort of thing to a camera. As my dead screen is really hard.
I find it very difficult. But yes, I was thinking about that last week and yeah, as always, it was some really great conversations with different people. Lots of interesting folks to talk to I work with but what those room looks like the other, I was just reflecting on your mirror.
Tie in, cause I was doing something similar not last week, but a couple of weeks ago. And I always forget this in my house is I get my spirit level out and I’ll get it all level. And then I step back and I realize that there’s no point in what I put up being level because my balls aren’t straight and the floor isn’t.
So it just looks bad. You have to make it. Yeah. Deliberately skewed just to go with a house, just to go back onto that deal, I think. But yeah, it was fine. No, in many ways I can’t really complain. Not
Matt: good. Okay. That thing though, about having to present to nothing but the. The lens of a camera.
I think, I don’t know. Maybe people are starting to appreciate a little bit more of the skill and talent. There is for a good television presenter,
Chris: Richard Baker, up in my estimation,
Matt: And Richard Attenborough. No, David Attenborough. I reached out when he was good as well, of course, but it’s not been around for awhile.
But the the ASAM Bruce, they were able to be able to do instead all in one case able to do this whilst surrounded by marauding wild animals. So it’s be able to do all of that is. Quite remarkable. Really? There is something that actually, and I don’t know if you’ve talked about this before, but, so I’ve talked with other people about this recently that the presenting to a group of people, even if they are there, that alone, if they’re displaced by time and doing that is so much more hard work, I knew using a tool like zoom or whatever else, and it is to do in-person because the emotional energy you need to drive out of it.
The ability to make yourself feel deeply uncomfortable, because you are trying to do something with an energy that isn’t coming back at you. And I think it’s massively difficult.
Roland: I was on a session last week with a relatively small group of people and the instructions at the beginning were stay off mute, which is the opposite of what you almost always get told for the very reason that.
You want a little bit, if possible, obviously if your child is running around screaming in the background, then use your mute button, but otherwise stay off mute. And I actually thought that’s quite good instructions. Isn’t appropriate for bigger events and what have you, but just so you get that audio feedback, if nothing else, if you tell a joke and you don’t hear anything, it’s soul destroying.
So I thought I might try that as well in the
Matt: future. Yeah. That’s an interesting thing. And it’s one of the challenges actually. And one of the, I think the biggest. Single challenge with the technology at the moment is that audio does not allow people to talk over one another. Because you get the thing where one dominant audio channel will mute everything else in an ability to be able to, this is why you have to stay on mute, because if you’ve got a loud noise, it stops the speaker from being heard completely, not just, riding out over the top of it.
Now, being able to get to a point where we have technologies that enabled us to be able to talk over one another, a little bit, or even, maybe even a lot. It’s one of the things that Liz stocker was saying when we spoke to her at the end of last year, About how the actually talking over each other is part of the way in which we communicate with one another and losing that makes everything that much harder, the technology to be able to do that will be monumentally difficult.
Chris: I don’t think it’s just the tech guy. I think it’s our ability to focus on in-person you can tune one person out and listen to another, or you can it’s. It just seems to be easier when you’re surrounded by people and maybe. It’s to do with your brain being able to say, okay, I can kind of position that person over there and I can position that.
And you’ve got a 3d effect. It’s not the same when you’ve got a 2d effect in your ears. Somehow your brain is just not possible. And so the tech might be able to get us there in terms of. Processing the input, but I don’t think we can process that here with headphones
Roland: on none of it. It’s funny. I’ve been playing with some tools recently just because of zoom fatigue, because it’s not even if locked down and soon I think we’re still going to be having to use these tools a bit better.
And so I’ve been experimenting with a bunch of new tools recently. The latest one I’ve been using is called bonfire, which is 3d audio. And it, it’s quite simple. You just move yourself around a room or there’s different zones. And so you can hear people spatially around, around the space and it’s very different to a mano kind of webcast zoom experience.
I dunno, I think people are playing experimenting with that. Aren’t they? But yeah, it’s by no means perfect
Chris: right now. Okay. Oh, I hadn’t heard about that, but that sounds like the kind of thing that might be necessary in order to suit. Hi, you might set up with the visual clues then to get you all to work in the way that we’re used to.
I don’t know, but you maybe we’ll evolve, our minds and our brains will evolve in, new ways of capturing all this stuff and processing it.
Matt: I think we are ready. You don’t hear you’re on mute quite as much as you did this time last year.
Anyway, let’s let’s press on with the show. We’re going to talk about the things between things. Cause that seems like a good place to be. Should we crack on.
Matt: Last year, we had an episode which is entitled liminal. And one of the reasons I know that word is because of this week’s guest because he introduced me to the term. And the conversation we were having last year was about how, one of the things that we seem to have lost through lockdown and this mass experiment in working remotely.
From one another physically has. Being the loss of the spaces that exist between the things that we think are important. So the loss of the space of commuting that, that space and time between home and work, the loss of the space that exists at the beginning and the end of meetings, when you’re chatting with your colleagues before you get to hit the agenda, because everybody’s now obsessed with having meetings that only focus on the agenda items as if those were the things that you couldn’t do through things other than a meeting.
Anyway, Which is a whole other story. The loss of places like the water cooler and these slightly turgid ways to try to be able to recreate them. They’re all just a little bit awkward and how maybe we finding some of the working from home and some of the everybody distant from each other harder because we’re losing some of those places, which were never seen as being necessarily the important bit of work.
And we’d get factored out if you’re allowed an accountant anywhere near it. But in fact it probably how human organizations, businesses and what have you, or work does that resonate in any way?
Roland: Rolling. It absolutely resonates. Yeah. I think, and I’m biased for reasons I’ll explain, but I think the most interesting stuff happens at the edges of organizations or places or yeah.
Times whether it’s meetings or what have you. And so I think it’s important to go there. And I think know we are missing some of that in some ways in our new lockdown lives, as you describe Chris, but at the same time, liminal just quickly. Can I just define it because most people know the word subliminal, but they just, they don’t realize that liminal is it’s the same word.
So subliminal is usually in relation to your thoughts. So subliminal thoughts are your subconscious or unconscious thoughts, but liminal just means the kind of surface or the threshold. That’s when a thought goes from being unconscious to conscious. That’s where the, that’s the sort of the Latin, I presume origins of the word.
But so it just really means transitions or boundaries. And I think that’s where there’s a great quote by JG Ballard, which is my fate. One of my favorite quotes, the future reveals itself through the peripherals. So in your peripheral vision, the new opportunities, new technologies, whatever it might be, make themselves known often quite quietly at first.
And then, more forcibly over time. And so yeah, I think that’s an interesting fertile ground and, by definition overlooked,
Matt: How do you explore this bit that people overlook? What had, how do you even find it? Some of the times,
Roland: By accident probably is the short answer or inadvertently just by trying to pay attention.
Yeah, the idea of liminality comes from anthropology originally, and I’m not an anthropologist, but it was introduced to me by an ethnographer where they study amongst other things, rites of passage in life, whether it’s births or deaths or marriages, or the example I remember was The bar mitzvah in Jewish culture, where you go from being a sort of boy to a man.
And there’s a phase in that sort of ceremony. I’m not Jewish, I’ve never been to a bar mitzvah actually. So I’m not speaking from firsthand experience, but where you say goodbye to your boyhood self and a little bit later you welcome in your adult identity and there’s that in-between bits when you’re no longer a boy and you’re not yet a man or girl or a woman, of course.
Where there’s a lot of, potential for reinvention, and so that’s where the idea originally comes from, but I’m a physicist by background and. I’m fascinated by things like superconductivity and weird stuff that happens at the transitions between solids liquids and gasses in that example.
And just, I think at the transitions, that’s where it’s possible to reinvent or recreate. So yeah, I’m just being fascinated with this concept for years. And I feel as a, without wishing to be too grandiose as a world and a society for the last few years things have been very fluid. Old certainties have been.
Cast aside and new certainties have yet to be picked up and that’s probably magnified more than ever in the pandemic. So I think it’s, yeah, for me I’ve become completely obsessed with it as a concept and an idea there’s
Chris: something, yeah, absolutely. Something that has. I’ve often used as a metaphor when looking at innovation and organizations and trying to help people to find where the innovation is this idea of that, which was just, I think the other bit related to what you’re saying.
And it is it’s it’s I think, or the edge effect in a way where you have two ecosystems that meet and that’s where evolution happens faster, because you’ve got. Maybe, where the land meets the sea or whether it, where the edge of the rainforest or wherever or whatever it might be, where you’ve got two different ecosystems meeting and then they have to adapt in order to, and that’s where you get the most adoption.
And also that happens in terms of organizations where two organizations working with each other, is that kind of related to what you’re talking about, that forced adaption, that place where you have to meet the challenge of whatever is
Roland: coming next. I think absolutely they slightly cynically.
The first thought that pops into my mind is, but by that analogy, then mergers and acquisitions should be some of the most kind of fertile ground for innovation, which, obviously well frequently, they’re not lots of evolution fails. I guess I used to run a little company that specialized in open innovation, which is basically just connecting different companies, usually large and small companies around new products and new ideas.
And. The best new ideas are basically just two or more old ideas mashed together, maybe in a new or interesting way. I think things like innovation get quite okay. Overly theorized and mythologized, actually. It’s just, yeah, it’s just bringing to two things, two people, two ideas or two or more together to create something new and different.
And yeah, it’s there in that in-between space where something new can emerge as well. And it’s not just the overlap between, it’s not just the yeah. W where two ideas overlap as well. They the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, yeah. Or maybe even collide collect.
Matt: But where you’ve got stuff where actually it’s causing problems, because you’ve got two different disciplines and sometimes that leads to. Problems. So that can also lead to people having to better work through new ways of being able to operate or do things or think about things differently.
Roland: Yeah, absolutely.
It’s quite uncomfortable, being in transition or yeah. Being between two cultures or whatever it might be. It’s not always a very comfortable state of existence. But I think it’s a fertile and it can be a fertile and a creative one. And I think it’s also, if I can just get back on my hobby horse for a second, I think it’s one that we all need to get better at, in our, in previous generations, those periods of transition, you change jobs every, depending on how back you go, never, you leave school and have a career for life.
And, as time goes by our lives and our attention becomes more and more fragmented. So the sort of transitions between. Previous more staple periods of our lives. And then, reinventing yourself for the next phase of your life is happening with much greater speed and frequency for all sorts of reasons.
So I think we need to get better at navigating some of those ambiguities and gray areas and transitions. At least right now, maybe that will change, whatever happens post pandemic, but.
Matt: So you’ve built a new venture after the thing, a hundred percent open, I have called it liminal. In terms of the actual things that you are doing to go from this theoretical discussion about the idea of the liminal space and whatever to yeah.
W how are you stopping the debt collector coming around? And,
Roland: So we were basically a sort of distributed agency or consultancy. Don’t really like the word consultancy because everyone’s a consultant these days, but yeah we’re hopefully a bunch of smart, creative entrepreneurial people who.
Come together and support each other and share learning. And in various forms deliver projects together. So the main ways in which we keep the debt collector from the door are we’re running a big challenge in South Africa at the moment where we’re finding interesting startups over there and matching them with startups here in the UK, around a bunch of different.
Particular challenges. But we’ve done that with a very distributed team, both here in South Africa. We’ve done a bunch of research for various organizations the Wellcome trust and Facebook and various other people in organizations. And and yeah, we facilitate a kind of toddler workshops, I think for me, the most interesting and important problems.
And the biggest one. Current pandemic notwithstanding would be around kind of climate change and climate emergency require weird hybrids of governments and corporations and startups and academics and citizens to come together and collaborate in some shape or form. So at our most kind of pompous and ambitious, we want to occupied or not occupied, but just connect the dots a little bit between unlikely bedfellows and try and solve.
Interactive or very challenging problems. That’s where we, I think we get most excited. It’s hard to craft a sensible business model around that, but so far touch wood we’ve done. All right. And and it seems to be resonating with people as well.
Matt: That idea of having to bring different groups together.
I look at the. I dunno, micro level, of the world in housing, where I’m at the moment and thinking about some of the challenges around targets, the social housing over the next 30 years, where by 2030, all of our homes need to be, have an energy performance rating of a C or a B. Bob will seal better.
And then by 2050 carbon neutrality, and that might be, I called earlier. And if you’d look at the the number of different professional interests that are involved in the designing and building and delivery of homes, let alone retrofitting old ones, which is a whole other thing. Ballgame of nightmares, the houses are places where a group of different professions come together and often fail to communicate or collaborate in any way, shape or form.
And I know Chris, you’ve spoken about this in the past, around your. The experience in the world of facilities management, where the people responsible for different systems within buildings ended up actually creating a complex systems that just fundamentally don’t work with one another, because nobody’s talking to each other.
And the challenge, there are very interesting challenges. This is just sociological and cultural. One of being able to get different groups from different worlds and different professional experience, to be able to not only just talk to each other, but also start to think about how they need to be able to actively work together, to be able to get things that, that work, that, that sounds like a really important challenge and also quite.
Chris: pick. That’s why I think also the problem is not necessarily that yes, they all come with from different backgrounds with different worldviews and different experience, but they also come with different agendas and they have very different views on how things should be done. And they also have often very strong views on how the other party should be doing their job, which is different from the way they do it.
That’s just so I can, I think back to my time, working in the criminal justice sector where you’ve got people like police magistrates, Probation officers, prison officers and every single one, every single group would regard the other with disdain and dismay and as much as probation officers who police polices the just Bali boys and thugs.
And they’d say the prison officers is ketone as an policeman. We’ll see the probation people as. The soft Nancy kind of, encouraging the, the wrong diverse to, to misbehave and prison office would see the mall as hopeless because by the time they’ve finished with them, they have to deal with them at their and actually working together in a multi-agency way to achieve an outcome, like a societal outcome, which is a reduction in crime reduction in victims, an outcome for society to.
So to to rehabilitate people, it’s really difficult because just, it’s not because they don’t actually all have that outcome in mind. They do, but their views on how you achieve it and their views on the reasons for it completely different. And I think, you see it often.
I’ve definitely, I relate to that massively. See that in so many different ways, my wife actually used to work on the sort of fringes of the criminal justice system as a social worker. But and yeah why is that? And we all we’re a social species. We there’s a tribalism.
We sort of cluster birds of a feather flock together. We cluster with people we like or have something in common with, and other people that are different to us. And. I think that’s a natural part of our behavior as a species, but at the same time, I don’t know if you’ve read Yuval, Harari, his book sapiens, and the work around it, but he talks about our super power as a species is our ability to cooperate at a very large scales, through telling stories predominantly, stories like money and brands and things like this, which create a more macro identity.
But yeah. How do you get people to, I don’t think they know what you don’t want to do is just get everybody. And this is maybe where mergers and acquisitions go wrong. They try and absorb and squash. Usually this, the culture of the smaller organization by the larger organization, that’s taking it over.
Whereas really you want to preserve I, in my last company, we were nearly acquired by a much bigger company. And we were saying, it’s going to be great. We were in pitch mode, but we were saying, it’s going to be great. We, w we’ve got all this agility and creativity and you’ve got all this reach and infrastructure and investment.
And then what, one of the people there just said yeah, but obviously we want it to be that the he had a great little expression. I’ve forgotten it now, but it was basically like, we want it to be the best of. What you do and the best of what we do not the worst of what you do in the worst of what we do.
Chris: Yeah. Oh, you have to do to my brains and
Roland: not something like that. Yeah. It was that check. Yeah, exactly. And it was like, yeah, you’re right. Absolutely. That’s but often that’s the way it ends up. Isn’t it? You you adopt the creativity and agility of the bigger corporation and they adopt the sort of the lack of whatever that you might bring to the
I was thinking, actually, when you made that you made that point about mergers and we talked about the edge effect in the desert meeting, meeting the rainforest or whatever it might be. And I was thinking actually the reason why mergers often fail acquisitions, certainly acquisitions often fail is because the jungle, which is the desert and the desert says you’re a desert now on the jungle.
Doesn’t know how to be a desert, but it’s suddenly, Oh, you’ve got to behave like us. And. It’s just, you’ve lost the opportunity to say, okay, what’s the grace of the happens in between was that what’s. And, but that’s not how we work, because as you say, people they fixate on being successful in the way they always have.
And often it’s a ego driven thing to think I was successful because I was like that. And that’s why you often see. Managers or people being bought into an organization, then they go, okay. I was successful over there and I did a, B and C, and now we’re going to do a, B and C or B, and I’m going to be successful.
And they obsess about doing a, B and C, but they don’t realize that somebody else was doing D somebody else was doing E effort happened before they turned up, and all of these things made that circumstance happened, but they just concentrate on the things that they did. So it’s that it’s ego driven process.
Isn’t it where people think that they were in control of their situation and that’s why they were successful. And that’s why they’re going to make this change happen. And they don’t appreciate that. Actually, there was a whole complex then going on around them. That was part of their success or whatever.
Matt: don’t get the next job if you say. Yeah, no, but that last one, it just, obviously
I’m going to change to me, do stuff. And I, my, my great hero in all that I’ve done in the second half so far of my career is gently the the. The Douglas Adams character who basically just randomly does stuff until things eventually hit into some sort of mode. And whilst I don’t completely follow that train of thought approach, that there’s a little bit of actually needing to be able to let some randomness and serendipity happen and then pick out what’s working, which is completely unacceptable as a way to be able to sell a.
Business service, but it’s probably what’s happening in most cases. Anyway. So w we talked about these groups and different groups and the challenges of them working together because, culture and power and all these, but what are the ways to overcome that? What are the things that we do to be able to allow magic to happen at the boundaries, as opposed to the bad stuff?
Roland: So if I can just introduce another kind of buzz word into the conversation. So collective intelligence, which is, the property of groups to be greater than the sum of the parts essentially, or the individuals within them, the sort of the core principles are wet, and most groups let’s face it as we’ve talked about are yeah, not necessarily smart or intelligent, least not not it’s not guaranteed to be the case.
Diversity and independence, two interrelated concepts, but first of all, When faced with any question or problem you want to hear from different perspectives freely, without too much influence from each other, at least to start with, you want people to answer the question in the way that they’re able to answer the question that requires and sorry to be a bit fluffy here on a technology kind of podcast, psychological safety people need to be able to say if, if they disagree with, the direction that we’re going, or if they think a different technology might be a better technology or whatever it might be.
And so these cultural things are really important, but also, so having those diverse perspectives, probably getting people to work maybe individually together. So this kind of concept of working alone together, I think is quite powerful. And then. Synthesizing aggregating and banking the stuff that you agree on, and then really spending time on the stuff where people have different perspectives.
Sometimes you just need to agree to disagree. Sometimes you need to hammer it out and see who wins the argument. And, there’s a number of different approaches. I think there’s some very practical methods. I think a lot of it is about, yeah. How are you tee up the conversation or the, the culture, some of it is about how you facilitate the process. And some of it is just basic rules and behaviors that it’s okay to say. I don’t know, that ego thing that you’re talking about, Chris, that, or, being honest, Matt, about that, your successes in your last job where, you know, largely down to a flute, if indeed that is a modicum of truth, I think we can all relate to that.
Somebody said to me recently, vulnerability is an ability. So the ability to show. Weakness or uncertainty or is, can be very powerful if done in the right way. Obviously some cultures, some organizations will completely hammer down and crush that, but I think that is ultimately self-defeating so.
If you’re interested, we wrote a 220 page collective intelligence handbook with the United nations in Nesta, which has a whole bunch of tools and techniques and methods, which hopefully is pretty practical in amongst some of this more conceptual stuff that I’m talking about here tonight.
Matt: So some of the stuff you talked about there sounds like it might be easier in some.
Cultures than others. And that the particularly if you take the us individualistic and the UK individualistic business style, which I think is prevalent in a lot of organizations in the UK and the U S and maybe a bit less. So in parts of Europe, maybe in some of the forest in particular cultures, much less.
So because do you see different abilities
Roland: within this? Yeah, no, absolutely. My last company, we worked in about 25 different countries and we definitely brushed up against some challenges in a couple of different countries, just based on predominant culture. There’s I think it’s a Malcolm Gladwell book.
I can’t remember which one where he talks about a plane crash that happened where. I think it was like Indonesian pilots were being told not to land the plane by bolshy American air traffic controllers. And the, I don’t know if it was Indonesian actually, but it was, they were so deferential the Korea.
Yeah, they were deferential. And they bloody crashed the place and they knew they were running out of fuel and yet they couldn’t quite bring them back. And, thankfully in the world of air crashes, they document this stuff and they try and learn lessons from that. But too often, those sorts of mistakes happen and they just get buried and forgotten about.
Yeah, there’s definitely massive cultural differences. I’m trying to think of a personal example. I’ve done a lot of work in South America and Columbia in particular where I didn’t speak terribly good Spanish, which didn’t really help, but also Yeah anyway, sorry. There’s a much longer story there, which we probably have time for tonight, but anyway, yeah we can, I’m up against some cultural challenges, shall we say?
Which which took us a long time to iron out. But yeah, I learned so much from that in quite a painful way, but but it was yeah, it was a kind of brilliant lending experience in the most painful, possible way. If you catch my drift.
Chris: But even in the UK and America and that’s, it, there’s a hierarchy.
There’s a kind of, there’s a way that people are used to working and being comfortable, working at a different slot. The kind of way that you’re talking about maybe a higher state of entropy in, being happy and happy to work at that level. That’s quite rare. And it’s, people drift back then don’t they, to break the, to be a metaphor, but I do, they they want to return to more structured ways of working often.
If you if they’re not supported and don’t feel safe or they don’t have that next place to go to in those less structured environments.
Roland: I don’t know if it’s relevant, but my dad’s American, my mom’s German. So I’ve grown up in a mixed household with different cultures. And I think that has informed my fascination with this in-between space because I am by definition, a product of a sort of in-between culture. Yeah. Having grown up in the UK.
So there’s a kind of third culture to throw into the mix there as well. And, British and German cultures, aren’t that different compared with, career than American, for instance. But there’s still plenty of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. But yeah, within that, it is something amazing as well.
Matt: So you talked in the introduction about some. Big decisions. Oh yeah. And then you teased us. I come on.
Roland: One was I was toying with, I know we’ve spoken about this, Matt, I think, but one was, I toyed with the idea of writing a book a couple of years ago, and then I actually hooked it around a few publishers and had some interest, but anyway, I turned it into a podcast rather than a book and I’ve been enjoying doing the podcast, but I think I’ve actually been writing a newsletter to the community that I’ve helped to found and build over the last two years that I send out every two weeks and actually not every week, but some of those are pretty good.
So I’ve actually started pulling those together. Thinking maybe there’s some something I could pull together here. I don’t know if it’s as conventional as a traditional book, but that felt quite exciting just to think, Oh, maybe I can do something with that. The other thing, which is a bit more tangible, but I was actively looking to merge my company with another company.
And once this podcast go out tonight I’m G I’m going to say it. So I’ve decided not to do that. I was toying with that idea and I’m not going to do it. It’s going to be announced tomorrow too. So you’re getting a scoop. Not that I think anyone listening to this will particularly care, but yeah, no, it was an interesting opportunity.
It’s a company I’ve worked with for a number of years and we were just flirting with each other. Should we do something more meaningful together? And for various reasons, we think now’s not the time. But that, that for me personally, and for my tiny little organization is actually a big.
A big deal and a big decision, not least what do I do next? Cause I was, we’ve spent a number of months exploring this opportunity and I, as you tend to, when you’re making a big decision, you talk yourself into, this is the future that you’re designing for yourself. So yeah. But I’ve decided not to do that, or we’ve collectively decided not to do that.
And so I now need to figure out a slightly alternative future, but, we’re all in that situation to a greater or lesser extent. So that’s not necessarily, you mean deliberately
Matt: creating liminal States for yourself. Cause that’s what that sounds like.
Roland: I think there’s something in that actually.
Yeah, I think there was something in that I think I’m not quite fully pro I haven’t fully processed it. There’s a fascinating guy called Dave Snowden. I don’t know if you know him. He’s developed this complexity framework. Super smart guy. They’ve got this technique, which sounds really annoying, but I think I can see how it’d be really useful, where they run workshops, where people are discussing a problem or a challenge.
And naturally what we all try and do is try and solve that problem and come to some kind of solution that’s inevitably in our nature. And they deliberately poke people for longer than feels comfortable. So they don’t jump to solution mode, but they sit. Uncomfortably with the the lack of resolution for longer, because it’s, I think the theory, as I understand it is the longer that you sit with that kind of discomfort, the more deeper insights or better solutions that ultimately come from that, I think you can take that to a ridiculous, extreme, so you need to, that needs to be balanced, but yeah, I think to some extent I may be doing that to myself as well.
Yeah. Do you do that? Sorry. Is it just me?
Matt: I think the idea of being able to create different futures. I don’t know whether it’s the lack of completer finisher in me or whether it’s just the sense of boredom, but the idea of being able to have. You did it. It’s if you, I don’t know if you go for a job interview to be able to be successful in a job interview, you really got to be able to imagine yourself in the job.
I think, I don’t think it’s possible to be able to, you’d want to worry about a job interview process where you go in thinking, I don’t really want this and come out of it have a few days. Yeah. But still not really wanting it. But yeah, no I’ve, I, one of my least successful jobs today has been exactly that But there’s a.
Th there’s something about being able to get yourself into a mindset where you go, no, this is where it’s going to be. And I think particularly the whole thing about what is an entrepreneur and what is it to be entrepreneurial? Th there’s the the kind of Elan Musk model, which is the single, I’ve just got one idea.
And I’m going to follow that, whatever, even if the whole world thinks I’m an arse
Roland: I, he doesn’t just have one idea though. Does he sorry to cut three ideas. He’s got three. Yeah, but
Matt: he’s got three ideas and he’s a prolific arse. That’s true. But the th but I think there’s actually a much more Yeah, it’s the thing about massive growth type entrepreneurs, which is, do you want to be able to do this just to make the thing as big as possible, which is the Ford or the Musk or the Zuckerberg or whatever.
And then there’s actually the, what most entrepreneurs are, which is people who get by. And I don’t think you get by having one massive idea and then rigorously following it, you do that by constantly tinkering and adapting. And does this work or that work and it’s not about, and success shouldn’t just be measured.
I don’t think, especially, I think coming back to your point about how do we fix the longer term issues around climate change, wherever it doesn’t come through. Massive growth.
Roland: Yeah. There’s definitely something in that. Sorry, Chris, I don’t know what your thoughts are on this. I just I personally, it w it’s a cliche, but, it’s it’s about the journey, not the destination, isn’t it.
I much prefer to have an interesting journey. And certainly when it comes to job or work stuff, I quite often get bored quite quickly. Once, once everything is fixed and certain that’s not where I. I’m at my best, I totally get that’s necessary and needed. And other people maybe prefer that kind of certainty.
That’s just not the sort of where I like to spend my time. And yeah, just sitting with that kind of discomfort for a little bit longer, other interesting stuff, just can emerge if you pay attention to it. Sorry, I’m conscious that I’m sounding a bit cryptic, but I’m also still processing the decision that I’d been making as well.
So yeah, Chris, what do you think? What are your experiences of good or bad job interviews and the journey versus the destination?
Chris: Oh, I haven’t done that many where I. Haven’t really wanted the job one or two and you’re right. It’s completely different. You shouldn’t be it. You shouldn’t really be there.
You’re doing it for the sake of it. I think what I tend to do is I will put off a decision, not because I don’t know what the decision is likely to be, but because I don’t like the idea of something being settled and options being closed down, even though in reality, the passage of time will make that decision.
For me. I like to think that I’ve still got all the options. I like to think that I could still become, a space man or a fire firefighter if I want to. Even though I’m getting rapidly older and fatter and I’m less likely to be any of those things. But also I think absolutely being in those kinds of places where you’ve done, you’ve got things settled and everything’s ticking along and that’s the last place I want to be.
Oh, and also frankly, once I’ve done a job, I don’t want to do it again often. I’ll say, okay, I’ve done this and now I’m going to go and get another job, which is the same and I’ll think, Oh, I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve scratched that itch. And that’s why I think I’ve moved around and done different, never completely different because you can’t do that.
We’re not, I’m not some kind of poly polymath who can jump from one, one, one completely differently, do things or another. But I have found myself very much not wanting to do the same kind of thing again, because. What is there to do? What’s the challenge or what’s the, where’s the itch.
That’s a scratch.
Roland: I’m totally the same. I, I’d probably make more money if I, Oh yeah, just repeated the same thing again and again, and optimized for efficiency, but that’s and I saw a guy, Roger McNamee. Have you heard of him? He’s one of the early investors in Facebook and he wrote a book called very critical of Facebook a couple of years ago that I read.
And he’s one of these kind of Silicon Valley insiders old timers and on the boards of lots of different companies. And he was saying the whole, Silicon Valley mindset is to optimize for efficiency. It’s all about squeezing out inefficiencies. And so you cut in a way you can’t blame people for for what the outcome is.
Cause that’s what is valued by, the investors and the whole culture. But he was saying, what if he’s also a sort of amateur keen musician, I think, and he was saying, you don’t. You don’t value a piece of music just because it’s brief. Cause you got through it quickly, it’s about enjoying it in the moment, the best bit of a piece of music normally isn’t just cause it comes to an end, as quickly as possible. So he told that anecdote more, more eloquently than I did, but but it’s true. What if we optimize for optionality? What if we optimize for creativity or curiosity? I think that’s ultimately more fruitful and interesting.
And God knows where we’re having to redesign. I read an article today saying the pandemic is a portal to a different future. Again, rather high faluting language, but. We need to redesign things in new and different ways. Whether we want to return to some kind of normality that went before, or whether we want to design, a radically different world that is net zero and all these kinds of massive challenges that we face.
And it, the solutions that got us to where we were, aren’t the ones that are going to get us to where we need to get to. So I think that’s why I think liminality is a very sort of timely and interesting concept because I think we’re all in different spaces, in different ways and different parts of our lives in transition almost all of the time.
And so it’s, I think it’s part of the skillset, even though it’s it’s a pretty hard one to describe and codifies, as you can probably tell from. My somewhat incoherent ramblings on this podcast.
Matt: So that’s the end of episode, 180 more or less. We’ve got through it all without any references to dance. I think I’ve just blown it. Nevermind. Roland, thank you very much for joining. It’s been fascinating conversation. What does the week ahead open up for you in the realm of possibility?
Roland: So I’ve got some Some planning to do in light of the kind of bigger decision I made last week which I’m quite excited about it frees up some time in my diary to, to think about that on a more mundane, but I’m quite excited about this level. It’s my daughter’s 10th birthday. So we’re going to have a now obligatory zoom birthday party, so need to come up with some vaguely fun party idea so that I’m also recording my own podcast with a guy called I think it’s Christian bushes.
I need to double check his surname around serendipity. So that’s linked to some of what we’ve talked about. So I’m looking forward to that and and yeah, we’re planning the final showcase of our South African inclusive innovation accelerator that I talked about briefly which is coming up in a couple of weeks and that’s going to be quite a big deal for us.
Work to do on that as well. So a busy old week, one way or another.
Matt: Wow. Yeah. We’ll put links to liminal and to your podcasts and stuff on the WB 40 podcast page for this Chris how’s your week ahead
Chris: looking. Yeah this week is actually quite an exciting week because I shall be checking the mining rig in my garden because I think I’ve just about reached the oil and I expect to get about 10,000 barrel.
No, I’m not doing any of that, but you say the same thing every week. So I thought I’d say something different. No, live in times where basically the same thing happens every week. But so I’ve got a new customers that onboarding this week, which is always exciting cause he gets to learn about another company and what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it and all the characters within that.
So that’s great. Fun. And and also I’m looking forward to receiving, I’ve got I was doing this weekend, actually. I was building a robot kind of thing that I’d got for Christmas for my daughter as a present. And it’s like a little got, I might BBC micro bits in it and you program the micro bit and it’s got all sorts of ultrasonic sensors and light centers.
But it needs it’s all been tethered to the computer with cables because it didn’t have a battery, so it needs a battery. So that’s coming. So now this week we’re gonna have it skidding around on the floor and all sorts of wonderful self automated things. So that’s going to be good fun. So that’s this week, but Matt, what are you going to be doing?
Matt: I am going to be tending the service design committee of my organization. Because we’ve got to a point now where we’re understanding that doing service design probably involves having oversight from the committee. That’s responsible for the services that we offer, which is a good step forward.
And I Also going to be kicking off a data modeling exercise, which I’ve puts a supplier in place to do. And I am. Unbelievably excited about, because I basically worship at the the church of VF card. And if it ain’t got a conceptual data model, it’s dead to me. So actually being able to go through the exercise of working out what the data is we need as an organization to operate and where it currently sits is actually gonna be a massive step forward.
And it makes me very happy. But there, again, lockdown could be getting to
Chris: me one of the other, I can’t imagine anything more to do, frankly, but good for you.
Matt: Good data modeling is a beauty to behold. It really is. I think it’s a very underrated thing. And with all this nonsense about data scientists and what have you we lose sight of that data today.
If you don’t know what your data is, you can. You can drown quite frankly in a data Lake not literally. So yeah, that’s the week head. Good. Roland, it’s been a wonder and a pleasure. Thank you. We have Julia Hobsbawm joining us next week, so she’s going to be talking about simplicity. Which is going to be, I’m sure, fascinating as well between now and then you can catch the the back email@example.com.
And don’t forget. Now there is a full index of all the speakers that we’ve had and some cryptic information about what they might’ve spoken about over the last four and a bit years. Wonderful resource to be able to idle the way. The hours that you spend staring at your windows, wondering when it will ever be that you’re allowed out again.
Between now and then have a lovely week and we’ll see you next week.