Checked into
A recent staff seminar day ended with a presentation by Dr. Adam Fraser. Here are my notes.


Dr. Adam Fraser. is involved in work around topic of wellbeing.

Dr Adam Fraser is a peak performance researcher who helps people strive to achieve better performance in everything they do. In his time he has worked with elite athletes and sporting teams, special forces soldiers and business leaders.

Source: About Research Based Wellbeing Keynote Speaker — Dr Adam Fraser

In regards to education, he has developed The Flourish Movement program:

The Flourish Movement program, which began in 2016, is an internationally award-winning program, designed with and for school leaders. Driven by data and grounded in research, Flourish offers practical strategies aimed at helping school leaders develop sustainable leadership practices by improving both their effectiveness and overall wellbeing.

Source: The Flourish Movement™

The focus of the program is to:

  • Build recovery
  • Prevent burnout
  • Manage emotions
  • Improve leadership and culture

Through his work he has found that he gets different results based on methodology. In particular, his work often focuses on action research. For example, rather than getting participants to complete a single survey capturing a single point in time, he gets them to complete a ten day survey.

With a lot of change occurring at the moment, his particular focus was on disruption and how we can be manage this. After reflecting on what we thought were our biggest challenges at the moment (missing functionality? clean data?) he shared end-of-life research which suggests that at the end of their life, we regret not being more courageous. Associated with this, the things that we are proud of (excluding raising children) is often based on the hardest thing we’ve done.

Extending on from the ‘hardest thing’, he explains that ‘happiness’ is a challenge just outside our reach, it is learning something new, where we have to grow and evolve to achieve it. The opposite of ‘happiness’ is chronic boredom. Bored employees are dangerous! In the end, growth comes from those who can sit with the discomfort. Often sitting with such discomfort comes from culture.

For Fraser, culture is “how we do stuff around here.” He the example of George Mohler’s work around predicting crime and the problem associated with cultural bias of police officers to elaborate on this ‘stuff’. At the heart of it, our behaviour and mood are contagious. The question is whether our mood worth catching? (According to Fraser, the poorest work habit is contempt and lack of respect. We need to be very careful of this.) Small behaviours lead to big outcomes. To demonstrate this, Fraser argued that one of the biggest developments in medicine was nurses being able to question doctors.

As an extension of this, Fraser argued that there is no such thing as a trivial behavior. He used a survey of American schools in which the most common item to be raised in staff meetings were the dirty cups left in the sink as lack of respect and humility. Another example was two small actions that Craig Bellamy made that has changed the culture at Melbourne Storm, that is, to socialise with/as a family and get a job in the off-season.

Like many players before them, 13 of our new boys ventured into the world of full-time, labour-intensive work alongside their pre-season training duties as a part of the New Recruit Work Program.

Started 18-years ago by our very own head coach, Craig Bellamy, the program sees new Storm recruits – regardless of reputation or experience – take on two 40-hour work weeks.

The goal? Teach them about hard-work and gratitude.

Source: Gratitude, Humility & Hard Work – Our Work Program by Melbourne Storm

Every person impacts culture.

One of the problem, Fraser stated, with culture as “the way we do things around here” is that it works like an immune system. When new people and ideas come in from the outside and try to change things, the system fights them off. The only way to change culture is to get a ground swell. Too often their is a lack of alignment between behaviour and values. The danger is trivial things that go unquestioned or unnoticed can often set things back. We will forgive a lot, but what we do not forgive is a lack of alignment, that is where trust dies.

Associated with our behaviours is the challenge of our emotions. We have a big brain hardwired towards pessimism. In addition to the positive and negative ripples that we create, we need to consider how we respond. Fraser referred to Shelly Gable’s four responses to good news to explain this.

Let’s imagine you have just told a colleague that you’ve been promoted. Here are Gable’s four possible responses:

  1. Active-constructive: the responder is enthusiastic, interested and supportive. They might say, “That’s brilliant news! I’m so pleased for you. Can I help you prepare?”
  2. Passive-constructive: they seem positive but their response is muted and with no enquiry. They say, “That’s nice,” with no real interest or enthusiasm.
  3. Active-destructive: in this scenario, they energetically belittle or reinterpret your good news, focusing on any negative implications. They might say, “Seriously? It looks like more work for not much money, and the people there are boring. It doesn’t sound that great to me.”
  4. Passive-destructive: they barely acknowledge your announcement or changes the subject. A typical response might be, “I see. Anyway, guess who I saw on my way in?”

Source: Gable’s Four Responses to Good News by Mind Tools

The question that we were left with is what small things we are going to do to help support change?

Liked Are You the Same Person You Used to Be? by Joshua Rothman (The New Yorker)

The passage of time almost demands that we tell some sort of story: there are certain ways in which we can’t help changing through life, and we must respond to them. Young bodies differ from old ones; possibilities multiply in our early decades, and later fade. When you were seventeen, you practiced the piano for an hour each day, and fell in love for the first time; now you pay down your credit cards and watch Amazon Prime. To say that you are the same person today that you were decades ago is absurd. A story that neatly divides your past into chapters may also be artificial. And yet there’s value in imposing order on chaos. It’s not just a matter of self-soothing: the future looms, and we must decide how to act based on the past. You can’t continue a story without first writing one.

Bookmarked The Pandemic’s Legacy Is Already Clear (theatlantic.com)

All of this will happen again.

Ed Yong reminds us that the pandemic is far from over.

Things have undoubtedly improved since the peak of the crisis, but calling the pandemic “over” is like calling a fight “finished” because your opponent is punching you in the ribs instead of the face.

He argues that change is still needed to make.

Normal led to this. It is not too late to fashion a better normal.

Although Yong is primarily focused on America, there are aspects that feel like they carry across borders, especially as we make it a choice in Australia to scrap mandatory isolation rules. It is all a reminder that it is very much a political pandemic.

Liked Günther Anders, a forgotten prophet for the 21st century? (aeon.co)

Above all, we need to resist the temptation to naturalise that which has victimised us and laid the groundwork for our extinction, but instead safeguard our humanity and power as individuals. It is imperative to emerge from our slumber by widening the limits of imagination in order regain awareness of the human, social and moral consequences of our actions, and to conceive an adequate responsibility for any disproportionate consequence. Only then can we hope to ‘keep [our] conscience alive in the age of the machine’.

Replied to A Vibe Shift Is Coming by Allison P. Davis (The Cut)

He thinks the new vibe shift could be the return of early-aughts indie sleaze. “American Apparel, flash photography at parties, and messy hair and messy makeup,” he riffs, plus a return to a more fragmented culture. “People going off in a lot of different directions because it doesn’t feel like there’s a coherent, singular vision for music or fashion.” He sees Substacks and podcasts as the new blogs and a move away from Silicon Valley’s interest in optimizing workflow, “which is just so anti-decadence.” Most promisingly, he predicts a return of irony.

I suggest that the death drive has something to do with it. With the pandemic and climate change, our aesthetic and behavior are certainly shaped by a sense of doom. There’s a nihilism to the way people dress and party; our heels get higher the closer we inch to death. It’s why people are smoking again, so says the New York Times. “Oh, sure,” Monahan agrees, but not fully. “I think the interest in opulence and the interest in transgression are in some ways just pent-up frustrations from the pandemic where people are like, I want to have fun. Also, the 2010s were such a politicized decade that I think the desire people have to be less constrained by political considerations makes a lot of sense.” I can tell he’s theorizing on the fly when he points to the fact that there’s now a bouncer at Bemelmans Bar as evidence of the new embrace of old opulence.

The discussion of a ‘vibe shift‘ made me wonder if I was ever a part of the vibe at all? As Twinkle Digitz touches on in his song Here’s Cheers to the End of the World, I think that the current crisis has enforced reflection and a clearer picture of where we are or are not:

We’ve got the facts, but everybody’s guessing

We’re being schooled, I think this pandemic is trying to teach us all a lesson

Who knows, it could be a mixed blessing

Ladies and gents, stop your engines

“Ian O’Byrne” in Vibe Shift Coming – Digitally Literate ()

Liked Kim Stanley Robinson on inventing plausible utopias (eliotpeper.com)

Twenty-twenty will be remembered as the year of the pandemic. Lots changed, and now we have lots of questions too: When will things “go back to normal”? Will they ever go back to the way they were before? If there are some permanent changes from this year, what will they be? No one can say now. So the moment we’re living through now is a kind of interregnum, the space between two moments with their respective structures of feeling. The in-between can be acutely uncomfortable but also a space of freedom as old habits have ended but new ones not yet been settled. Proust called this the moment of exfoliation, when you shed one skin and grow another. It’s not comfortable, but it is interesting.

Replied to ‘At first I thought, this is crazy’: the real-life plan to use novels to predict the next war (theguardian.com)

Three years ago, a small group of academics at a German university launched an unprecedented collaboration with the military – using novels to try to pinpoint the world’s next conflicts. Are they on to something?

The idea of literature being used as a means of predicting the future and war had me wondering about a few things:

  • What does this look like in the world of AI and invented texts?
  • Would this mean that a totalitarian regime might prevent change by silencing authors?
Liked Our New Postracial Myth by Ibram X. Kendi (theatlantic.com)

The postracial idea is the hardest racist idea to put down. Everyone is inclined to consume it. White people and people of color alike long for racism to end. When we yearn for something to end—and don’t know what the end looks like—it is easy to make ourselves believe the end is near.

Listened Mark Pesce | Team Human from shows.acast.com

Playing for Team Human today, futurist, inventor, and author of “Augmented Reality,” Mark Pesce.

Pesce augments our understanding of the many interfaces between ourselves and whatever it is that’s out there. Does cybernetics break the western conception of linear time, arrow-for-progress, colonial expansion thing?

In his opening monologue, Rushkoff discusses why elected officials should not be on social media platforms. “The minute we put banks and other real stuff on here is the minute it started to go wrong.” Further, he looks at how early-stage internet fan fiction crept into reality and ended up addicted to fractalnoia.

Mark Pesce talks about his new book on Augmented Reality. The conversation explores different senses of space and how companies like Niantic avoid legal precedence around ownership. He also explores the way in which our reality can be twisted. This touches on the topic of magic and the way in which a part of us can die when we change.
Liked Moral and Refuge (laurahilliger.com)

I want to do better at not alienating people and helping people transition to a better world. I want to help people see the benefits of a healthy planet, a healthy workplace, a healthy society. My first step is to check my assumptions and biases by giving myself a bit of refuge from everyone else’s assumptions and biases.

Bookmarked Rebecca Solnit on Black Swans, Slim Chances, and the 2020 Presidential Election (Literary Hub)

Donald Trump wasn’t really a black swan because everyone saw him coming; it’s just that a lot of people didn’t think he’d finish the journey. If you’re blindsided by climate disasters or Republican corruption, it’s not because they’re black swans; it’s just that you ignored the evidence. A pandemic like this had long been predicted. The nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl was waiting to happen, thanks to bad design and bad maintenance protocol. One huge problem with human beings in general, but particularly those who suffer from overconfidence, especially because they think they’re in charge, is that we tend to dismiss the unlikely and prepare for what we think of as the likely, even as we live out a history full of black swans and unlikelihoods.

Rebecca Solnit reflects upon the world that we are currently in. She calls for hope, not optimism:

Black swans happen. Which is why I’ve modified the slogan, hope for the best, prepare for the worst to: Hope and work for the best (and also be prepared to wrestle with the worst if it arises).

This reminds me of a piece from the Librarianshipwreck in regards to COVID-19.

Hope, on the contrary, is not the belief that “things will get better” but the belief that “things can get better.” To be hopeful is not to be certain that things will improve, it is to refuse to accept that this is as good as it can get. If optimism says “this is the best of all possible worlds,” and pessimism retorts, “you’re right” – it is hope that responds to both by saying “a better world is possible.”

Replied to Uncertainty as the new norm (daily-ink.davidtruss.com)

Uncertainty is the new norm, and we’ll just have to get used to this.

David, Simon Breakspeare presented a webinar to a group of Victorian education leaders. What stood out to me most is the importance of honoring the effort and adaption that so many have put in, rather than snapping back into so sort of semblance of the old normal, it that is even possible.
Bookmarked Yes! and … How to be effective in the theatre of work (tomcritchlow.com)

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 five posts:

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

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.

In the fifth post, Critchlow unpacks the power of the fool. He reflects on how you respond to a clients answers, the fine line of speaking truth to power and engaging in the disruptive act of fitting in.

It needs to be noted, playing the fool is about generative destruction not defensive destruction.

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

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 Taking a Long Term View During Turbulent Times (Tim Kastelle)

Here’s a talk I gave last week on some methods and benefits to thinking in the long term, even when there are urgent short term events taking up our attention.

Tim Kastelle talks about the current challenge for organisations. He said that we are living through the biggest case of confirmation bias, where if the world is going to change then it should obviously change my way. Kastelle explains that thinking is the fast and attention seeking, whereas what we need is thinking that is slow and taps into the power of change. This is captured by Jenny Odell in her book How to Do Nothing. One of the problems is that during a time of chaos, speed is more important than getting it right. However, more importantly, if you are not trying to change all the time, you cannot change on demand. This is why some organisations are are struggling.

The assumption that everything will just be the same as it always has been forever is the worst decision an organisation can make.

This is similar to a point made by Harold Jarche

Liked our wake-up call (jarche.com)

Complexity and chaos are the new normal as climate change drives more crises our way — pandemics, refugees, environmental disasters, and the overall degradation of our environment. To prepare for chaos, we need people who can act. Identify these people and give them experiments or skunk-works to play with. We will need leaders who can also deal with complexity. They will have to be constantly experimenting and probing their ecosystems. Organizations who are serious about surviving in the ‘post-covid’ normal will have to take a hard look at their leadership and management structures. The time to change is now, not when the next crisis strikes.

Bookmarked Why Remote Work Is So Hard—and How It Can Be Fixed (The New Yorker)

The challenges aren’t just technological. They’re managerial.

Cal Newport looks into some of the history of remote working and unpacks some of the challenges that many are currently facing. One of the challenges is the social aspect to work.

In an age when community-based social ties are increasingly frayed, the office is where many adults interact with other adults. Perhaps, encoded in our genes after millennia of tribal coöperation, there is instinctual excitement at working side by side with others toward a shared goal. An e-mail that reads “Job well done!” is not the same as a smile. These benefits of the office—these subtle affirmations of our humanity—were easy to overlook, until we abruptly found ourselves deprived of them.

In addition to this is the problems associated with communication, collaboration and coordination when working offsite.

In some respects, we may be in an electric-dynamo moment for remote work. In theory, we have the technology we need to make remote work workable. And yet most companies that have tried to graft it onto their existing setups have found only mixed success. In response, many have stuck with what they know. Now the coronavirus pandemic has changed the equation. Whole workplaces have gone remote; steam engines have been outlawed. The question is whether, having been forced to embrace this new technology, we can solve the long-standing problems that have thwarted its adoption in the past.

Remote work is a complex problem. Although it may have many boons, some will still prefer the work-life balance associated with office life.

Remote work is complex, and is no cure-all. Some of the issues that have plagued it for decades are unlikely to be resolved, no matter how many innovations we introduce: there’s probably no way for workplaces to Zoom themselves to the same levels of closeness and cohesion generated in a shared office; mentorship, decision-making, and leadership may simply be harder from a distance. There is also something dystopian about a future in which white-collar workers luxuriate in isolation while everyone else commutes to the crowded places. For others, meanwhile, isolation is the opposite of luxury. There may be many people who will always prefer to work from work.

In some respects, this reminds me of the discussion often made about changing and transforming learning spaces in school. The reality is that for a new space to work it usually involves new practices to go with it. As Matt Esterman suggests,

I’m forming the theory that what most teachers want is a more shiny version of what they have. This is because they are not trained as designers (usually) and are so often hemmed in by the expectations of current reality that they don’t have the time or inclination to think about how things could be different.

Liked The Surprising Secret of School Improvement (The Confident Teacher)

And so we return to Wiliam’s sage advice: doing fewer things as school leaders may allow for better things to be done well. Freeing up time and space may be the only way to allow for improvement.

We are left with the question: what good things should we stop, so that we can do even better things?

Bookmarked Has This Crisis Really Changed Schools? – Will Richardson (Will Richardson)

With respect to those who stand in awe of all that’s changed about schools in the past few months, I would ask “what’s actually changed?”

Will Richardson discusses the way in which some things change, but others stay the same. I guess this is a reminder that although we may celebrate some of the changes, there are still others that need to happen.