Monday, 12 March 2012


Blaise Pascal, the French mathematical genius, said:-
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
And ever since reading that I’ve been sitting in a room quietly, by myself, thinking about the turmoil of change.

Anyone who’s a student of management or a modern day business leader will, almost certainly, be an espouser of making things happen. They’ll be a connoisseur of the global social tsunami. They’ll sniff and love the smell of marketing cordite. These are the “Carpe Diemists.” And as protagonists in this world of change the words of Meat Loaf will ring in their ears:-
“If it ain't real - fake it!
  If it ain't yours - take it!
  If it don't exist - you make it!
  If it ain't broke - break it!”

Robert Kriegel, New York author, has actually written a book called “If it aint broke , break it”. But I’m not sure that either he or Tom Peters the “creative destruction” guru  are right. We have had too much “slash and burn” management, too many generations of MBAs centralising command, too many fakers, thieves and spurious innovators – all those featuring in Meat Loaf’s  song.

But there are some other words in that song too:-
“Give me some words to live by”

Many of the most creative things we’re looking at today are the product of recognising how people work and working with that. Inspiration from humanity not control of humanity.

Example: The traffic experiments of Belgian, Hans Monderman,  in the Dutch town Drachten which involved the removal of street furniture, traffic lights, warning signs and even road markings….accidents down, drivers more focused.

Example: The experiment in Hogewey in Holland in which a gated village was created for dementia  patients which is a microcosm of the real world – a bit like Truman – wherein carers act roles and everyone living (often) in their own harmless fantasy, seems very happy.

Example: In a children’s home vandalism was reduced by repairing the vandalised home not punishing the child. In New York graffiti was reduced by painting over it leaving graffiti artists frustrated by having nothing to show for their efforts. So they stopped doing it.

We don’t want certain things to change.

Chocolate, our favourite piece of music, Sunday lunch, a joke that we always find funny or the arrival of Spring (again). Over half a century of the arrival of Spring and it’s always a surprise.

Sometimes that apparent same-as can be a revelation.

So the words to live by are to find the time to sit quietly and think….because rushing around isn’t always the answer and reality is nearly always better than faking it.


Penelope Young said...

I'd agree with you Richard. True leadership comes from a centre of authenticity. Know yourself, be true to yourself and act accordingly. Not sure about staying in a room - I'm currently travelling in the southern hemisphere and loving the difference.

Richard Hall said...


Get back in that room…it’s the only way…. I think the point is about being “still” and not just rushing around breaking things in the hope all that activity will be mistaken for purpose.

George Clooney in “Up in the Air” describes what I don’t think we should be.

We’re not a very reflective age.

Maybe it’s time to change.

As for gallivanting around far-flung places I’m pleased for you.

But Spring has just sprung in Brighton.

And we’re all thinking.