Bookmarked Yes! and … How to be effective in the theatre of work

I recently read the book Impro – Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone
I loved the book and as Venkatesh said ‘it is a textbook that teaches you how to see the world differently.’ so consider it recommended.. It’s a delightful book all about improvisational theatre and importantly how to teach improvisational theatre.

The book inspired me to draw many analogies between the improv actor and the consultant.

Inspired by Keith Johnstone’s Impro – Improvisation and the Theatre, Tom Critchlow explores the analogies between the improv actor and the consultant in four posts:

  1. The Office is a Theatre for Work
  2. Optimism as an Operating System
  3. Generative Strategy
  4. Status Switching

In the first post, Critchlow discusses the challenges associated with working as a consultant compared to somebody on staff. He suggests that the consultant is akin to an improv actor, forced to find ways to fit in at every opportunity. A part of this is associated with spreading ideas informally through the use of the client’s language, defending ideas not points and focusing on outcomes not debates.

In the second post, Critchlow explores the first challenge, to be a pleasure to work with. This comes in a number of ways, including providing routine solutions, balancing between front and back-stage, and creating a level of optimism.

I love this quote: “a problem is a point between two complex systems”

So, to reframe our initial statement about problems – the key when engaging clients is not to hunt for problems but to hunt for systems. (source)

In the third post, Critchlow talks about the use of the co-creation process to build on top of the ideas of others. This all comes back to capacity building, rather than problem solving.

Problem Solving vs. Capacity Building

A useful strategy is to interrupt routines from within.

the better way to interrupt routines is via a thorough understanding of existing workflows, processes and routines I’m reminded of the phrase amatuers talk strategy, experts talk logistics here. Most new capacities relate to an existing routine either directly or indirectly and the job of the consultant is to map the organization effectively to understand where and how we can interrupt to build new routines.(source)

In the forth post, Critchlow discusses the difference between topology and topography within an organisation. This includes the different forms of localised power, whether it be decision makers, gatekeepers and makers. The consultant exists outside of this.

I like to imagine the consultant as a quantum structure on top of a classical map (the org chart). While the map is fixed and tangible, the quantum structure behaves strangely and has bizarre properties like non-locality. This non-locality of the consultant brings with it an uncertainty with regards to power structures.(source)

Instead a consultant engages in fast status switching.

I found this a really useful series in thinking about how I work with different schools, adjusting to each as I go.

Bookmarked The Inhumanities; Or, the war on the humanities & why our humanity is at stake

IS IT A COINCIDENCE that at a time of protest around the world—a cry for systemic reform, an outcry against the failures of imagination and the decimation of the spirit, against the smallness of mind and meanness of heart, against the exploitation of the earth and of each other, upon which the colonial project and global commerce have depended—is it a coincidence that at just this time the Australian government, a more reactionary and ideologically driven regime than any we have known, has decided to dismantle the humanities?

Mark Tredinnick responds the challenge being made to the traditional liberal arts education in Australia.

The humanities teach us how to think. How to Be. And how to do it for oneself. They teach one how to write and speak. For oneself, on behalf of interests greater than one’s own. They school us in ethics, in care, in imagination. They ask us to ask ourselves to do better with our living. And how to ask for better. For instance, from those in power. The humanities help us to know what, beside profit and security, counts. For any and every human life.

He argues that rather than job-focused degrees we need to be people-focused.

We don’t need job-focused degrees (heavy on data and light on wisdom). What we need more than ever is students who learn how to live and who know how to help others live meaningful and meaning-making lives. We need minds capable of apprehending merit and beauty and of fashioning justice and joy; we need hearts that know how to care for the wreck of the world and the wreck of other lives that the prevailing economic and political models have made; we need minds skilled at the craft of conserving what’s left, and keeping it habitable for human—and all sorts of other beings.

We in fact need the humanities as an anti-thesis of being too economically focused.

We need music because we have factories; we need poetry because we have politics; we need the humanities because we have economies, and because there is always the risk that one might enter dangerous times like this, and governments like this.

Bookmarked Saying Goodbye to 'Law & Order' by an author

Despite current outcries to demilitarize, defund, or altogether abolish the police after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, according to one recent poll, more than half of Americans still don’t see police violence as a “very serious problem.” If stories play a role in shaping public opinion, the legacy of American cop narratives has mostly functioned as escapist storytelling for white comfort at the expense of black experience: Crimes are solved in an hour and the good guys tend to win, when in reality fewer than half of reported violent and property crimes are solved. These shows can’t faithfully address systemic racism and the reality of police violence any more than white-savior narratives can faithfully reflect black achievement.

One of the challenges with reimagining the police is telling stories that helps portray a new imaginary.
Bookmarked How to break up Google

It’s easy to say “Break up Big Tech companies!” Depending how politics unfold, the thing might become possible, but figuring out the details will be hard. I spent the last sixteen years of my life working for Big Tech and have educated opinions on the subject. Today: Why and how we should break up Google.

Tim Bray wonders about splitting Google up into different companies, such as ads, maps and cloud computing.

via Cory Doctorow

Bookmarked Novelist Cormac McCarthy’s tips on how to write a great science paper (nature.com)

The Pulitzer prizewinner shares his advice for pleasing readers, editors and yourself.

Cormac McCarthy’s words of wisdom, as told by Van Savage and Pamela Yeh:

  • Use minimalism to achieve clarity.
  • Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember.
  • Limit each paragraph to a single message.
  • Keep sentences short, simply constructed and direct.
  • Don’t slow the reader down.
  • Don’t over-elaborate.
  • And don’t worry too much about readers who want to find a way to argue about every tangential point and list all possible qualifications for every statement. Just enjoy writing.
  • With regard to grammar, spoken language and common sense are generally better guides for a first draft than rule books.
  • Commas denote a pause in speaking.
  • Dashes should emphasize the clauses you consider most important — without using bold or italics — and not only for defining terms.
  • Inject questions and less-formal language to break up tone and maintain a friendly feeling.
  • Choose concrete language and examples.
  • Avoid placing equations in the middle of sentences.
  • When you think you’re done, read your work aloud to yourself or a friend.
  • After all this, send your work to the journal editors.
  • Finally, try to write the best version of your paper: the one that you like.
Bookmarked Revenge of the Suburbs (The Atlantic)

There was always comfort to be found in a big house on a plot of land that’s your own. The relief is even more soothing with a pandemic bearing down on you. And as the novel coronavirus graduates from acute terror to long-term malaise, urbanites are trapped in small apartments with little or no outdoor space, reliant on mass transit that now seems less like a public service and more like a rolling petri dish. Meanwhile, suburbanites have protected their families amid the solace of sprawling homes on large, private plots, separated from the neighbors, and reachable only by the safety of private cars. Sheltered from the virus in their many bedrooms, they sleep soundly, dreaming the American dream with new confidence.

Ian Bogost explains how the supposed defects of the suburban sprawl and rejection of mixed-use planning has all of the sudden become a positive.

The existing suburban McMansion might find a new life in the aftermath of the pandemic too. Although critics have deemed these homes aesthetically ghastly, inefficient, and extravagant, many families want the additional space of a suburban monstrosity to accommodate extended family, such as parents or grandparents. Multigenerational living might become even more common as the coronavirus threat and its economic consequences wear on. Colleges are still sorting out whether and how students will return to campus in the fall, and beyond. And recent graduates unable to find jobs, or unwilling to move to them, might return home for indeterminate periods of time. The exurban castle offers lots of space at an affordable price, thanks to its distance from the city.

Bookmarked Morrison has sailed into treacherous waters that sunk the dreams of those before him (abc.net.au)

Usually it’s brand new prime ministers still high on the dopamine surge of winning an election whose thoughts stray to reforming the Federation. But Morrison has a different sort of political capital, writes Annabel Crabb.

With Scott Morrison’s decision to retain the National Cabinet in place of COAG, Annabel Crabb takes a look at the history of federalism in Australia beginning with the decision with the decision during World War II to consolidate income tax in the Commonwealth’s coffers. She talks about the continual negotiations that occur and the temptations to link this to certain conditions.

The temptation for federal governments to attach ideologically-driven conditions to these payments is nearly irresistible, as is the temptation to dive into what are ordinarily state government responsibilities.

This is something that has a significant impact on education.

Bookmarked The Looming Bank Collapse (The Atlantic)

The U.S. financial system could be on the cusp of calamity. This time, we might not be able to save it.

Frank Partnoy discusses the sleeping giant that are ‘collateralized loan obligations’.

The reforms were well intentioned, but, as we’ll see, they haven’t kept the banks from falling back into old, bad habits. After the housing crisis, subprime CDOs naturally fell out of favor. Demand shifted to a similar—and similarly risky—instrument, one that even has a similar name: the CLO, or collateralized loan obligation. A CLO walks and talks like a CDO, but in place of loans made to home buyers are loans made to businesses—specifically, troubled businesses. CLOs bundle together so-called leveraged loans, the subprime mortgages of the corporate world. These are loans made to companies that have maxed out their borrowing and can no longer sell bonds directly to investors or qualify for a traditional bank loan. There are more than $1 trillion worth of leveraged loans currently outstanding. The majority are held in CLOs.

Bookmarked Do Protests Even Work? (The Atlantic)

Movements, and their protests, are powerful because they change the minds of people, including those who may not even be participating in them, and they change the lives of their participants.


In the long term, protests work because they can undermine the most important pillar of power: legitimacy.

Zeynep Tufekci explores the potential of protests to challenge the legitimacy of those in power. As she explains, what would have taken years to coordinate in the past can now be organised in days with apps and digital platforms. This lack of friction can subsequently dilute the impact of such movements. However, what can make a protest more pertinent is the level of risk associated with it. As Tufekci highlights with the current situation in America.

The current Black Lives Matter protest wave is definitely high risk through the double whammy of the pandemic and the police response. The police, the entity being protested, have unleashed so much brutality that in just three weeks, at least eight people have already lost eyesight to rubber bullets. One Twitter thread dedicated to documenting violent police misconduct is at 600 entries and counting. And nobody seems safe—not even a 75-year-old avowed peacenik who was merely in the way of a line of cops when he was shoved so violently that he fell and cracked his skull. Chillingly, the police walked on as he bled on the ground. After the video came out to widespread outrage, and the two police officers who shoved him were suspended, their fellow officers on the active emergency-response team resigned to support their colleagues. Plus the pandemic means that protesters who march in crowds, face tear gas, and risk jail and detention in crowded settings are taking even more risks than usual.

The challenge with any protest is the fear repression. This is what stopped the Chinese protests in 1989 and the Egyptian protests in 2013. However, such measures have their limits.

Force and repression can keep things under control for a while, but it also makes such rule more brittle.

The challenge to power and repression is overcome by changing the culture and conversation. This is required to undermine the legitimacy.

Legitimacy, not repression, is the bedrock of resilient power.

This is why Anne Helen Petersen argues that small protests in small towns matter because there have been a lot of them, therefore the bedrock is crumbling.

Rebecca Solnit uses the metaphor of a waterfall to describe such change:

The metaphor of the river of time is often used to suggest that history flows at a steady pace, but real rivers have rapids and shallows, eddies and droughts. They freeze over and get dammed and their water gets diverted. And sometimes the river comes to the precipice and we’re all in the waterfall. Time accelerates, things change faster than anyone expected, water clear as glass becomes churning whitewater, what was thought to be impossible or the work of years is accomplished in a flash

When they are a consensus idea, that’s the end of the insurrection, or the waterfall, and politicians are smoothing things over and people have accepted the idea that they at first resisted, whether it’s the abolition of slavery or the right to marriage equality

Although she suggests there are groups who deserve credit for escalating the current situation.

One more group deserves credit for the present moment: the police. They themselves have made a fantastic case for defunding or abolition—at least as they currently exist. Nationwide, with the whole world watching, these civil servants showed they use public funds to brutalize, murder, and deny the constitutional rights of members of that public. One might imagine they’d have wanted to be careful in the wake of the Floyd murder, but they went on a spectacular display of their own sense of immunity by—well, shooting out the eyes of eight people with “sublethal” weapons, managing to blind a photojournalist in one eye; attacking and arresting dozens of members of the media at work, especially nonwhite ones; San Jose police shooting their own anti-bias trainer in the testicles; knocking over an old man who’s still in critical condition as a result (yeah the one Trump theorized must be Antifa); teargassing children; pointing weapons at other small children; and generally showing us that the only people the police protect are the police. They struck the match that lit the bonfire. Because they thought they could not themselves burn, and that they were indispensable. They’re wrong on both counts.

The Black Lives Matter movement itself has been building since 2013.

However, as Stan Grant highlights in regards to the recognition of Australia’s indigenous people in the consitution, such success can be a long time coming. This is something Doug Belshaw touches on in his reading of Guy Debord’s Comments on the Society of the Spectacle

Here is the problem for the person, or group of people, wishing to smash the spectacle, to dismantle it, to take it apart. It must be done in one go, rather than piecemeal. Otherwise, the spectacle has too much capacity to self-repair.

Bookmarked Why must Indigenous claims for justice always be cast as an attack on the state? (abc.net.au)

Why would young Indigenous people entrust their futures to another generation of politicians — black or white — who keep telling them to wait, asks Stan Grant.

Stan Grant discusses the long history of waiting to be recognised in the Australian constitution. The crisis is therefore a critical test for democracy. As Grant explains:

We walk the same fault lines here. Why would young Indigenous people entrust their futures to another generation of politicians — black or white — who keep telling them to wait?

Bookmarked Africa’s Lost Kingdoms (The New York Review of Books)

It may remain a little-known fact, but Africa has never lacked civilizations, nor has it ever been as cut off from world events as it has been routinely portrayed. Some remarkable new books make this case in scholarly but accessible terms, and they admirably complicate our understanding of Africa’s past and present.

Howard French’s dive into Africa’s complex past is a reminder that history is always more complicated than we may want it to be.
Bookmarked The intense, magnetic genius of Philippe Zdar (Double J)

“People call me because I am honest and I will never go behind the desk for something I don’t love and will not fight for until the end”

In an extract from Off The Record: One Woman’s Global Adventure in Search of the World’s Greatest Producers, Mel Bampton dives into the world of the late Philippe Zdar. One of the really interesting observations was in relation to having different speakers to capture different perspectives:

“When you are mixing, you have all these speakers in front of you,” Philippe explains, pointing at all the speakers in front of us. “It’s very important to understand why.

“We have this little one for when I listen to mono, then I have bigger speakers and bigger than enormous. It’s like when you look at a house. You can look at the house one millimetre away, but eventually you have to look at it from a hundred metres away if you want to paint it.

“One hundred metres away is the little speakers; you see the whole house at once, and if you want to go and paint the lock you go to the big speakers, you zoom right into the lock.

“This is how you mix an album; to make sure you have looked at it all as a whole. This is what I did with Dan, this is what I do for everything.”

When Dan brought the album back from France and played it to the rest of Cut Copy, they responded with cries of ‘Holy crap!’ As did the nation, with the Zdar-touch helping to give non-mainstream Australia one of its finest dance albums of 2004.

Bookmarked The 7 elements of a good online course (The Conversation)

Research shows few differences in academic outcomes between online and face-to-face university courses. A professor who’s been teaching online for years offers advice on good online courses.

George Veletsianos reflections on his expereince studying online learning to provides some advice about what to look for as many sectors remain online for the foreseeable future.

  • A good online course is informed by issues of equity and justice.
  • A good online course is interactive.
  • A good online course is engaging and challenging.
  • A good online course involves practice.
  • A good online course is effective.
  • A good online course includes an instructor who is visible and active, and who exhibits care, empathy and trust for students.
  • A good online course promotes student agency.

I particularly like Veletsianos’ closing remarks:

These qualities aren’t qualities of good online courses. They are qualities of good courses, period.

Although online learning is different, I feel that what is most interesting is the distance it provides and the opportunity to reassess. This is something that David White has been discussing.

Bookmarked Thread by @timminchin: If someone writes an article you disagree with, here is an option that a lot of you seem to have forgotten: read it, then have some thoughts… (threadreaderapp.com)

Thread by @timminchin: “If someone writes an article you disagree with, here is an option that a lot of you seem to have forgotten: read it, then have some thoughts about it.

Then have some thoughts about your thoughts. Critically assess your intuitive reaction. Then see if there’s any elements of the piece that you might agree with. See if it might even — god forbid – adjust your view. Just a tiny bit.

Give to the writer all the credit & generosity of interpretation you would give a friend. Apply to yourself all the criticism you’d intuitively direct at an enemy. Then wait a day. Perhaps read the article again.

Then, before deciding to post about it on twitter, consider: am I signaling my virtue? Am I just polishing my brand? Am I going to be inadvertently boosting the signal of something I wish had less exposure?

Am I just fishing for ‘likes’. Do I have a strategy whereby I might effect positive change? Is my interpretation unique enough to add to the debate? Am I just fueling ineffectual anger? Have I noted my biases? Have I applied humility? Then think, maybe I’ll have a tea. Then go make a tea. Then drink your tea.”

Tim Minchin’s shares a thread about considering other ideas and intent before responding.

Am I just fishing for “likes”. Do I have a strategy whereby I might effect positive change? Is my interpretation unique enough to add to the debate? Am I just fueling ineffectual anger? Have I noted my biases? Have I applied humility? Then think, maybe I’ll have a tea. Then go make a tea.

This reminds me of Venkatesh Rao’s discussion of the internet of beefs. Alternatively, Austin Kleon argues that maybe rather than write a comment or an email, just write your own blog post.

Abby Gardner sums this all up as follows:

Guess who’s waiting to hear where I stand on the issue on Twitter? Nobody.

via Harold Jarche

Bookmarked Staying awake to the world: taking time to inquire into and build our own

I have always been wary of the glib phrase: “Inquiry teachers can learn alongside the children”. While there is certainly truth in that (I have learned SO much simply being part of an inquiry journey with groups and individuals) it doesn’t mean we are ‘off the hook’. Our ignorance can prevent us from asking better questions, helping learners make connections or pointing the way to critical information that can help struggling learners make meaning. In fact I have often observed in my own teaching that the deeper my understanding of something is, the better I am at listening, waiting, questioning and holding back to support the learner. Even when we might be assisting learners in a personal inquiry that goes well beyond our own field of interest and expertise, we need to know enough about how to connect to and locate others with the expertise … and that, in itself, requires us to stay awake to the world around us.

Kath Murdoch responds to the prime ministers mistake in claiming that we have never had slavery in Australia by providing a list of ways we can stay more awake. Whether it be sharing podcasts or connecting with an expert, the intent of this time is to spur our sense of curiosity.

We need to have hungry minds that stay relentlessly curious about the way the world works and the way we understand the world. We need to keep pushing ourselves out of our “comfortable knowledge bubbles” and be prepared to be the geographers, historians, scientists, authors, mathematicians and artists we hope our students will be.

I remember trying to push the sharing of ideas and resources a few years ago through social bookmarking. I think the biggest challenge is legitimising the time. Too often in the busyness of planning things can quickly become about getting it done.

Bookmarked The Ed-Tech Imaginary (Hack Education)

As we imagine a different path forward for teaching and learning, perhaps we can devise a carrier bag theory of ed-tech, if you will. Indeed, as I hope I’ve shown you this morning, so much of the ed-tech imaginary is wrapped up in narratives about the Hero, the Weapon, the Machine, the Behavior, the Action, the Disruption. And it’s so striking because education should be a practice of care, not conquest. Knowledge as a bag that sustains a community, not as a cudgel. Imagine that.

In a keynote for ICLS Conference, Audrey Watters traces a narrative from Frankenstein, through to Skinner. She wonders about the possibilities of a different ed-tech imaginary.
Bookmarked An arts degree has long been the butt of predictable joke but there’s another side (abc.net.au)

The late essayist and quicksilver intellectual Christopher Hitchens once argued that “above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment … and this Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person”.

For many, the universality of the humanities degree is the most democratic expression of this ambition.

Virginia Trioli reflects on the democratic values associated with a humanities degree.
Bookmarked John Oliver: US policing is ‘a structure built on systemic racism’ (the Guardian)

The Last Week Tonight host traces the history of America’s police culture, one ‘deeply entwined’ with white supremacy, and what’s obstructing change

John Oliver responds wave of protests sweeping America with a deep dive into policing in the USA. He explains that too often black communities are treated disproportionately.

“For any viewers sitting at home shocked by the scenes of police brutality, I get it – I’m white, too,” said Oliver. “But it’s worth remembering: that’s the tip of a very large iceberg. It didn’t start this week, or with this president, and it always disproportionately falls on black communities.”

This history can be traced from capturing escaped slaves to the policy of stop and frisk. Associated with this, police have become heavily armed.

On top of that, America has armed police “to the fucking teeth”, a subject Oliver and his team investigated six years ago. This has promoted a sub-industry of training seminars to reinforce the idea of the police at war, such as the “killology” training, a haunting clip of which showed an officer telling fellow cops to think of themselves as “predators”. “You know, the problem with telling someone that they’re a predator is that it primes them to see the rest of the world as potential prey,” Oliver said. “And of course cops who went through this training would end up on edge. You wouldn’t train a barber by saying, ‘here are your scissors, snip like this, and oh yeah, this is how you puncture the carotid artery.’”

Often this spending is in place of other social and health services. This is something that Douglas Rushkoff touches on.

Civil servants can only exist in a civil society. And a civil society requires servants trained in civility.

Oliver explains that at the heart of all this is a culture of systemic racism.

“If you’re not directly impacted by it,” Oliver concluded, “it is tempting to look for a reason to feel better about the world, to look at pictures of cops kneeling and think oh, well, we just need more of that! But we need so much more than that. Because ours is a firmly entrenched system in which the roots of white supremacy run deep. And it is critical that we all grab a fucking shovel.”

Elsewhere on the web, Stephen Ceasar reports on the military weapons being used to protect schools.

The Los Angeles School Police Department, which serves the nation’s second-largest school system, will return three grenade launchers but intends to keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle it received through the program.

Cory Doctorow rightly calls out the absurdity of this.

If you think that “facilitating education” involves an AR-15, you should not be allowed within 10 miles of any educational institution, for the rest of your life.

Mariame Kaba argues that reform is not enough and what ‘defund the police’ actually means.

We should redirect the billions that now go to police departments toward providing health care, housing, education and good jobs. If we did this, there would be less need for the police in the first place.

We can build other ways of responding to harms in our society. Trained “community care workers” could do mental-health checks if someone needs help. Towns could use restorative-justice models instead of throwing people in prison.

Speaking from a local perspective, Marcia Langton used her Queen’s Birthday honour to call for urgent action. Responding to the fact that since the royal commission’s final report in 1991 432 Aboriginal people have died in prison, and the Indigenous incarceration rate is double what it was 30 years ago.

I would have thought it’s pretty straightforward. Do not kill Aborigines.