When The Economy Speaks … Reversing National Unemployment Statistics

6 Things A National Leader Does.


Peter looks down at his high school examination results transcript for the first time. It is not a pretty picture. He had been praying hard the results that would peer back at him would be different but he also knew deep down that it may not. He had been dreading this moment. It has arrived.

Still, he had wished for otherwise. He is a bright student. But it had not been an easy past few years. He had just lost his older sibling to a debilitating illness. They had been very close to each other. He is also dauntingly aware his parents are not close to each other and fears they may find other partners and break-up. What would that mean as a family? Where would he seek his counsel? Will he be intruding? That bothers him.

Turning his eyes back at the results, he knows he can do much better than what he sees. The reality is dawning at him. He is facing it squarely. These results are not going to help him get into his dream course at the university of his choice. It hurts him. What should he do now?

Suddenly he is remembering that he has to announce these results to his family. He has been known to be the one with a sound head on his shoulders. But now. With this. What would they think of him? Maybe they would not ask. He consoles himself.

But they did. He chose to keep quiet. Perhaps they will understand. He hopes. But meanwhile, he needs to come up with a strategy. Fast. So that his peers do not leave him behind.

He thinks.

He needs to get grades. Good grades. Fast. What subjects will help him do so? French. Perhaps. Grades that would help him put his foot through the door of a tertiary institution. What can he do so that he can catch up with his peers in the shortest possible time? He has the coming summer months to do so.

What jobs are out there that he should prepare for? He really did like the sounds of the field of nautical engineering. He had really enjoyed seeing and fiddling in the cockpit of a cruise ship during one of his summer vacations. It had made him feel happy and come alive. And he loves his Maths and Physics. But he has been told that manufacturing here is not a big deal in terms of jobs. What should he do? How should he decide?

Are his days of plain-sailing through life over? Will he face the same dilemmas when he out there in the big wide world looking for a job? With only four jobs available for every ten working age population, what will become of his chances with not so great grades? Supply of labour is now outstripping the demand for labour. Will jobs become too slim for his picking?

He will need to figure this out. He needs time. But does he have the time?

We all know a story like this.

One way or another.

And so. Here is the situation. You are now charged as the Head of this State. What would you do to turn around the situation?

Run, you say? Oh, you did not say that. Good! Invite more investors, locals as well as foreigners, to invest in the country?

Your predecessors have done that. Poured trillions for decades over with the help of past heads of states and a cabinet of citizen representatives. Yet, widespread unemployment today, has grown to now prevail at 60%! How did that happen?

You say perhaps “they” have not done enough. That you will do more than them. That is possible. For how long would you do more of the same? What went wrong? What else could we do?

Some measures are drastic and feels more like a bitter pill to swallow. But I hope it will make the tough actions we would need to take instead become easier to bear with. So here goes.


Don’t have an agricultural and manufacturing bases? It has been too hard to build them? Well, no worries. Export unemployment at the same rate that we have been importing manufactured goods and the raw materials that were produced so that the unemployed follow the money you have spent buying them from outside the county (or the region).


If you know we will make more jobs tomorrow, go forth and multiply. But if you know, that we will not, … well, you get the drift.

A runaway population just means runaway unemployment figures that becomes hard to manage.

Supply of labour does not come from our education “system”. It is as the result of rates of births, not today, not just last year but from twenty years back. This is the time it takes for a young person to mature and readies himself for the job market.

Of course, it becomes tricky matching what happens in the bedroom today to the decisions we make in the boardroom twenty years on. The only consolation we can make is, the one who “creates” the child is the same one who plans today to “create” those jobs tomorrow. Well, no, I was not talking about God.

It is you and I. We needed to believe that we can create companies that can create those jobs for our children tomorrow. Companies are more than about hustling for clients to make money for us today or a shell to be used and discarded when we got what we need today. They are meant to create a legacy that makes jobs tomorrow. So, do you believe you can do that?

3 NATIONAL & COMMUNITY DIALOGUES AS FAMILIES Q: what allows industries to grow?

The decisions we make as nations and as families are strongly intertwined.

The decisions to be skilled for the agriculture and manufacturing sector bases are happening within families and households But the data used to inform the decision is based on what they would hear and say is happening “out there”.

If we think the population is not skilled to do manufacturing and in turn as families we think the country is not doing enough to create jobs in manufacturing then there right there, we have a lose-lose situation as a nation.

So make the intentions and the reasons clear and talk through the concerns surrounding the issue and figure a way to share the information as a nation. If countries around the world today can do grocery shopping online, this is not as big a step as we believe it to be.


Get your backyard in order. Know what you want and go for it.

Figure what the latticed structure of chains of raw material supplies that are driven by what customers need as a region looks like and develop a vibrant agricultural and manufacturing bases:
– Do not be led by products that you have but rather focus on what customers want when building the matrix. Construct a map.
– Identify how one good feeds into another cost-effectively for end-customer needs within the local, regional and the global markets
– Know what is available. And what is not.
– Forget the who has what at this point. That is for a later stage when the map is completed.
– Focus on identifying critical processes on the chains, those if unavailable would stall the development of the production and the chains.
– Do not wait for another region to develop their maps and approach the country or the region to conduct the manufacturing for them. You will lose the clout you would need in managing the process and gaining value.

When the mapping is complete, you now have a working document to get your act together and move forward as a nation and the region.


Align and, where needed, develop human resource skills dedicated to the agriculture and manufacturing sectors with a particular emphasis on acquiring both core across the nation and advanced skills in English, Mathematics and Science, particularly with Physics and Chemistry, that makes them resilient & inclusive in the two sectors.


Concerted setup of corporations in the sub-sectors of: the agriculture (crop or plant / raw material production) and manufacturing that fits in with the regional industry value chain matrix map and schedule.

Economies that rely heavily on extraction industries will have large pockets of unemployment that continue to persist in the nation. These industries gross high returns but they do so by employing fewer people and more machines to keep costs of operations under control and growth of the industry. This way the GDP would certainly look good (but not the food on our tables, which is the real GDP).

Machines do not create jobs for the unemployment rates.

Plant and animal based primary production and manufacturing economic sectors when well-developed have greater potential for creating and absorbing significant employment. Extraction based industries are typically technology driven and has lower capacity for employment of human resources.

As the nation shifts its focus to production, particularly in plants, it will learn to mitigate climate effects country-by-country that would allow the region to produce consistently throughout the year to keep the manufacturing sector humming.

Invite regional and global industry leaders global industry leaders or; incentivise and groom local captains of industry (by long-term overseas stints) to lead, chart and build the sub-sectors bottoms-up including from within households and education sectors.

Newspaper Column #13: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part V

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on Sunday Jan 20, 2013 edition.

Change Happens at the Speed of Thinking about the Whole Rather than of Our Individual Parts

How did “Uncle solve the problem”?  Ignoring is not solving.

Should we see a fire at the corner of our house, caused say, by dry leaves, we know what to do.

We would find ways to put it out by cutting off the supply of oxygen that feeds the fire.  We can do that because our effort to correct it, i.e. beating it down with sticks, or throwing sand or water on it can be greater than the effort by the fuel that feeds the fire.  It is easy said and done.

But imagine this, if the fire is caused by a gas pipe from afar that is growing steadily in size and supplies fuel at a rate faster than the effort we can make to put it out.  Dousing it even with foam by fire engines, will not make much difference.  And, to make matters worse, we can’t see the pipe.  This is now easier said than done.

The thinking that says, “Put out the fire” stops working here.  It even becomes life threatening.

The thinking that says, “What is causing the fire?”, and deal with the cause, now becomes relevant to change.  Even lifesaving.


Many persistent issues of the day are like the second type of fire.  There are things happening, beyond what we can see (the obvious fire) that keeps ‘feeding the  issue’.  These keep bringing the problem back, stronger each time.

I find one murderer or rapist or fraudster or thief and put him behind bars.  That does not mean that another is not ‘being created’ somewhere else.

Any police (as well as military and judiciary) organizations in the world have not only existed but grown as much as they have today, because we have not asked the question, “What is causing the fire?”  At least not yet.

We had been with the question, “How do we put out the fire that we can see?”  It is a necessary correction but not a solution.  We would need to expect the problem to return despite our efforts.

There are tons more in every nation:  water shortages, health concerns, industrial growth, unemployment, destitution, labour conflicts, economic diversification (or its lack of), wildlife diseases, poaching, land use conflicts, food security, pollution, divorces, work productivity, HIV/AIDs epidemics, floods, droughts, debts, household income levels, crop production, just to name a few are examples of persistent issues.  These are issues political parties everywhere find ways to pick bones with each other and feed off its fire.

The story of the mother-in-law (MIL) and daughter-in-law (DIL) (The full ‘Healing Poison’ story first appeared in the column on Jan 13, 2013), is a classic example of the second kind of fire.

We find the story of MIL-DIL resonate the world over.  They do not share the same MIL or DIL, but they share the same story.   They do not enjoy a relationship the way they do with their own mothers or daughters which typically grows better over time.  In some societies, they may even go so far as to kill off each other.  Literally.  In others, we avoid this phenomenon altogether by choosing not to marry at all.

But choosing to ignore it (e.g. staying apart), does not mean the problem is solved.  It may  postpone it by “sweeping it under the carpet”.  But that does not mean the problem is gone.  Should we “lift the carpet”, the problem is still there.  Just out of sight.  For now.

In the story, we know the uncle solved the problem.  Quietly but surely.  What would you say he did to keep it solved?  Last week we explored the metaphor of the boiled frog and we said,

“For frogs to be boiled, the frogs must not know they are being boiled.

For change to happen (completely), change must not know it is happening.”

So, the uncle, boiled “the frogs” between MIL and DIL.  What would you say he was boiling?  Did you say their attitudes?  Yes, you are right!

How did he do that?  Remember, he was not even ‘at the scene of the crime’?  How did he manage to change their attitudes, without managing (think performance management, coaching, mentoring, etc.) their performance?

And I mentioned there were ten things that happened in the story between MIL and DIL  In this edition we will explore a few of them.  What were they?

No judgment

Most uncles, should the DIL complain to him about MIL, would either take things in his hand and set up a terse meeting with the MIL or take the DIL to task and say, that’s not how a DIL should behave and then set the rules.

How about this uncle?  He says, “You want to kill MIL?  Wait here, we will do it together!”

Should he have judged the DIL, it would have been quite easy for the DIL to say, “Wrong uncle!  Go need to find the right one.”

What allowed him not to judge either side?  Notice he paid less attention to what they said or did but rather to look for the vicious cycle that has now taken over and is ruling their lives viciously.  He needed to find a way to ‘heal the circle of causality’ and turn it around.  When the cycle turns around (cycles are both good and bad news), the events go away themselves.   That’s the healing in the “Healing Poison” story.

Start small

Notice he created steps not to ‘jerk’ the system for a quick correction.  Cycles do not respond to such corrections.  Events may.  But not cycles.  Should he have called for an urgent meeting, ‘the frogs would have jumped out’.  They would have either absconded the meeting or appears and agrees but does not carry out the actions (it is the same as absconding) to full.

He needed to boil their attitudes to change.  To do so, he had to start small.  How small was it?  As small as a smile.  The longer the cycle had been running, the smaller the action needs to be, to reverse the effects of the cycle.  That’s the nature of causality.

Work smart with delays

The uncle devised a way for the DIL to continue with the act of smiling.  To do so, he tricked her into believing that if she did not do carry out the act for six months, or tried to change things too quickly, somebody might suspect it is her.

Why?  This is to allow, the timed needed for changes in the story to lead on in ways that give the people the choice to make their own change, as a result of changes that are happening to them by their realities.

Of course, the change between MIL and DIL will happen even faster when the two can see the circular causality that is causing them to run in circles.  Just as the uncle could “see it”.  Change will then happen in a snap!  That’s how fast change can really be.  But till we see the cycle, the change has not changed yet.

What do you think are the remaining seven things that happened in the story?

Next week, we open a brand new subject and deepen these lessons in turn.  We will explore HIV/AIDs and what causes its viral nature regardless of anywhere in the world, be it India, China, Europe, America or here in Africa.

Meanwhile, google its behaviour of growth over time.  Go back to the 1980s.  What do you notice?  Has it been stubborn?  “What is causing the fire?”  What does the gas pipe look like?  And we know, it is not the truck drivers.  Yet they do make an interesting metaphor for the cause.  Smile.

Wishing you a great week ahead of discovery and learning.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, from Singapore works as a national Strategy Development Consultant working with national planning commissions.  She welcomes comments at sheila@loatwork.com.  For upcoming programmes, refer to www.loatwork.com/Senior_Leadership_Introduction.html.

Newspaper Column #12: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part IV

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on Sunday Jan 20, 2013 edition.

Change Happens at the Speed of Thinking about the Whole Rather than of Our Parts

What causes the change to stay changed?

If we have managed change and it has happened, it should not go back to its old ways.  Yes?

If it does, then, change, as the meaning of the word stands, really has not happened.  And there is a reason.  We have not yet understood how change happens.

Over the past two editions of this column, we ran a story of the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and with the uncle’s help; we saw the relationship between the two turn from that which was sour and ugly to one where they have now became the best of friends.

Here’s a before and after summary of that story.

Mindset “All mother-in-laws (MIL) are bad!”“All daughter-in-laws (DIL) are here to rob me of my family’s wealth” “Mother-in-law can be my friend”“What great DIL I have!  What would we do without her?”
Structure:  MIL-DIL1   MIL-DIL2
Pattern of quality of their  relationship over time MIL_Graph1 MIL_Graph2
  • Gets upset with each other
  • Slamming of doors
  • DIL washes her own laundry
  • MIL does cooking for herself
  • MIL sits down and has tea with DIL
  • Both go for shopping and movies together
  • They have picnics with both their families

I left you with a question at the end of that story.  How did the story help to bring about the changes in their situation?

Here’s a quick summary of the story:

As DIL began to smile at her MIL every night while she served her with a hot cup of milk, and MIL drank the milk it led MIL to feel more energized over time.  As a result, things began to look up for the MIL who returns favour by cooking supper for her DIL.  This leads to a chain of reactions that eventually sees the boss of the DIL praising her for a job well done with promises of a job promotion.

As things began to look up for DIL, she returns the favour to MIL by spring-cleaning the whole hose.  When the MIL returns, she could not believe her eyes how all of their lives have transformed in a short four months and decides to call it truce between them.  I left the story at the point MIL sitting down with DIL on the verandah enjoying their tea together.

How did a story that was going nowhere except horribly wrong (think crop or animal wipeouts, or budget deficits, or unemployment, or destitute not graduating or crimes not abating) turn around and as we speak enjoy a splendid outcome with all signs that anything from the past is now no more.  How was that possible?  What caused it?

Question is what caused the circle to stay turned around?

The Boiled Frog

Have you heard of the parable of the “boiled frog”?  It is a metaphor that is very commonly used in Systems Thinking circles to understand how change happens in reality and to appreciate why corporates and nations die-off suddenly or what causes them to grow from strength-to-strength.  In fact, we can’t appreciate systemic thinking without first appreciating this concept.

Boiling Frog

Boiling Frog (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Many changes when they start, is not sudden or abrupt as many of us believe.  They start very slowly and changes are often not perceptible on our radars and sometimes even dismissed off as one-off events.  And yet, these small changes over time, often build themselves up eventually to crisis-level proportions.

It is a maladaptation on our part to recognize gradually building threats.  Our minds and bodies are typically conditioned to see and react when a fire has become large.  Not when it starts small.

How do we boil a frog?  Yes, a frog!  Not quite the ones we see around here.  But the green slippery, wet species that live in water (not sand).  Because if we attempted to catch them, they slip through our fingers.  Literally.  If we attempted to throw them in hot water, they jump off easily.  So how then do we boil them (I did not ask, how do we eat them, smile).

Well, to boil them (like any change), it has start with where the frog is.  They are cold-blooded animals and so when we place them in water, we place them in a cold pot of water.  They sit there quietly.  They are comfortable there.  And then?

Well, then, we start with ONE piece of hot firewood.  Place it under the pot.  And since, it is only one piece; the water does not boil over suddenly.  It boils gradually.  So gradual that it allows the frog to adapt itself to the new temperature.  It thinks to itself, “Haa … winter is over and spring has finally come.”  But it sits in the pot.  It does not jump out.

And then we bring on another piece of firewood.  Again, the temperature in the pot rises gradually, but persistently.  The frog has time to adapt again to its gradually changing surroundings.  It even says to itself, “Summer is already here”.  But it stays put in the pot.

And then, we bring on another piece of firewood.  What do you think, the frog will say this time?  You guessed it right! “Summer is really, really hot this times, is it not?”  But it had time to adapt again.   It is becoming groggy.  But it stays put on the land, I mean, in the pot.

And when we bring on finally one more piece of firewood, well … the water is now boiling but the same frog that had first jumped out of the hot water when we first threw in it, continues to stay there.  It does nothing.  What has happened to it?

Well, it did not even know …. well, you know, died!

Why?  Because the frog’s internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival is geared to sudden changes in his environment, not to slow, gradual changes.  As a result, it did not react, and it got boiled.

Just as earth’s atmosphere when it warmed gradually over from the 70s nobody (on earth) thought much of it, because it was gradual and we adapted without being aware we were doing so.  It was sub-conscious.  While, we boiled (literally, sometimes), like the frog, the change too for the atmosphere, was boiling slowly, just like the frog in the parable.

For frogs to be boiled, the frogs must not know they are being boiled.

For change to happen, change must not know it is happening.

So, was the uncle, boiling “the frogs” between MIL and DIL?  What was he boiling?  Did you say their attitudes? Sure, you are right?

How did he do that?  Remember, he was not even ‘at the scene of the crime’?  How did he manage change, without managing (think performance management, coaching, mentoring, etc.) it?

There were ten things that happened in the story between MIL and DIL (refer to the story in the column’s edition dated Sunday Standard, Jan 13, 2013) that made the change possible.  What were they?

This will make a great supper discussion with your own family, would it not?  That will be the subject of discussion in Part V of this instalment.

Psst …. Are you still wondering what came of the liquid in the bottle?  Well, the uncle admits later.  It was not actually poison.  It was Vitamin C.  Yes!  So the MIL is not only having a great relationship with her DIL, she is also now in the pink of health!  Smile.

Wishing you a great week ahead of discovery and learning.  Don’t forget the question?  What were ten things that happened in the story between MIL and DIL that brought about a change in their lives?

Ms Sheila Damodaran, from Singapore and based here, is an international Strategy Development Consultant working with national planning commissions tasked with national strategy development.  She welcomes comments at sheila@loatwork.com.  For upcoming programmes, refer to www.loatwork.com/Senior_Leadership_Introduction.html.

Newspaper Column #11: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part III

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on Sunday Jan 13, 2013 edition.

Change Happens at the Speed of Thinking about the Whole rather than of Our Part

What causes change to be real?  Understanding it with a story: “The Healing Poison”

Hope all of you had fabulous New Year festivities with family loved ones!  And of course, wishing all of you a bright and promising year in 2013!

Just before Christmas, this column began running the story of the uncle, the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law.  Over the holidays, I had many of you asking how does the story end.  I am sure you have figured how it ends!

It was meant to illustrate how we turn around and solve persistent issues.  These are issues that resist efforts to change.   In short, for any causality cycle that is vicious, are they unemployment or greening the country or HIV or crime.

Well, here’s a recap of the beginning of that story.

The Story

Both daughter-in-law (DIL) and mother-in-law (MIL) started their relationship with each other really well.  As we all do.  Except over time, they find themselves in an increasingly difficult relationship!  That happens too.

In frustration, the DIL shares her problem with her favorite uncle.  She now believes if she gets rid of MIL, she would have got rid of the problem.  She has come to her uncle to seek for help on how to get rid of her MIL.

The uncle advises her, giving her first a small bottle with some liquid inside, that she drops two drops of it in a hot cup of milk and present the cup of milk to her MIL.  She must make sure that MIL drinks one cup for every night for the next six months.

And when she hands the cup of milk to her MIL, she must do so, with a smile.  He assured her that by the end of six months, the MIL will be gone.

So, what do you think happened next?

Well, as difficult as it was now to smile at her MIL, the DIL had been so bent on getting rid of the problem; she decides to put the plan to action right away.

That night, just before her MIL approached her bed-time, she carefully boiled a cup of milk on the stove, dropped the two drops of the liquid her uncle gave her and she proceeded to her MIL’s room.

On the way, she spots a mirror, preens into it and tests her smile in the reflection.  Happy with what she saw, she then knocks on the door and steps into her MIL’s room.  With a smile.  Just as the uncle prescribed it!

She then says, “MIL, I have prepared a hot cup of milk for you.  I know how tired you must be after a hard day at work for all of us.  Please drink it.

Being her first night at this, she left the cup of milk next to the MIL’s bedside and quickly walked out of the room.  Except, she was not sure, if the MIL actually drank it.  She could not sleep the whole night.

The next day, she made her way back to her MIL’s room.  To check.  True enough.  The MIL had drunk the milk.

MIL had been tired and so she actually welcomed the drink.  When she drank she had a restful sleep.

Smiling quietly, the DIL thinks, “Good one night down, six more months to go!”  And so, the DIL resolves to make this a nightly ritual with her MIL for the next six months.

So, what do you think happened next?

Well, let’s switch the story over to MIL.  What does she see?  She sees her DIL present the cup of milk with a smile.  And when she drinks it, she finds her sleep improves and she now sleeps like a baby.  When she gets up in the morning, she is refreshed.

Over time, as her body rejuvenates, she finds herself completing the daily chores in a jiffy and even finds time to spend with her two grandchildren. In the past, she would feel tired to do so, but these days she enjoys their time together.

A few weeks later, as her moods begin to lift, she decides to gather a group of her close friends to dabble in her favourite past time – a round of cards.  And because she sleeps better, she finds herself concentrating better on the game and soon learns to win better with each try.

Since they play for the money, after just a few weeks, she was learning to bring home a tidy sum of money.   A few months on, she was actually, bringing in 500 pula each time!  She was overjoyed.  This was at month No. 2.

One afternoon, as she sipped her tea on the veranda, she began to realize that life indeed seems to feel different.  She is energized these days and she is now enjoying her time with family and friends and she wondered, what caused it.

She then realized things had begun to change, from the time her DIL started giving her the cup of milk.  She felt grateful for the action.  And then, there is something about when our attitudes go up by themselves, our willingness to return that favour on our volition (choice), goes up too.

The next day, she decides she should return the favour to DIL.  So that evening, when the DIL returns home, tired and hungry from work, she spots a hot piping supper on the table.  She could not believe her eyes!

The MIL comes out of the kitchen and says to her, “I have prepared this meal for you.  Do have it.”  The MIL then pops back into the kitchen.  Out of gratitude, the DIL sits down at the table, to have the meal.  When the MIL comes out a few minutes later, she notices that the DIL has accepted the meal.  She feels happy, and decides she will continue to make the meal for her DIL.

So, what do you think happened next?

Well, the DIL finds she does not need to make supper, she decides to use that time to help her children with their schoolworks.  And because the mother has time to inspire their learning, the children find it easier to focus in the classroom, and soon find their grades improve.

When the grades began to grow, the mother finds herself better able to focus at the workplace.  With improved focus, she finds herself diligent not just completing but also leading her work.  When the boss notices the change in her, he is pleased and says to her, “Keep that up, and you will be promoted”.  This was now month No. 4.

The DIL could not believe her ears!  The boss had always been on her back, but these days, he is talking about her promotion!  What happened?  Her relations in the family and at work are improving and she has never been happier.  What caused it, she wonders.

She then realizes that things began to change, when her MIL began to prepare her supper.  She felt grateful for the action.  And then, there is something about when our attitudes go up by themselves, our willingness to return that favour on our volition (choice), goes up too.

The next day, DIL decides, she should return that favour to MIL.  MIL is already out of the house, playing cards with her friends.  When she returns, with now 900 pula in her pockets and she crosses the threshold into the house, a gasp escapes her lips.  She notices a very clean and tidy house!  DIL has cleaned the whole house and she is stunned by its beauty.  She says to herself, “What a great DIL  I have!”

As she moves around admiring the newly spanked home, she begins to wonder to herself, “Why are we still quarrelling?”

And then she decides (herself), she is going to change things once and for all.

She quickly goes to the kitchen, boils two cups of tea and proceeds to look for her DIL.  When she finds her, she sits down with her, and with a smile she asks, “Shall we call it truce?”

The DIL was delighted, of course!  ….

What do you think happened next?  Have things changed?  For good?

This concept of managing change is new to most of us.  We could escape ourselves by miring in addictions or resign to stay in depressions, but there is another way.   And it can start with anyone or anywhere.

As we learn to see and turn the cycle around, the cycle takes over and helps to create new experiences that are felt by its participants.  This gives birth to new attitudes from within the participants and therefore these lead to new actions by the participants themselves.

Since it is led by experiences that are real for them rather than suggested or set for them, the change will not revert.

Otherwise, nothing would have changed, would it?

Do you remember how it all started?  Question is, what caused the change?  What caused the circle to turn around?

This will make a great supper discussion with your own family, would it not?  That will be the subject of discussion in Part IV of this instalment.

Psst …. Did you ask you want to know what came of the liquid in the bottle?  That’s coming next week!  Smile.

Wishing you a great week ahead of discovery and learning.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, originally from Singapore, is an international Strategy Development Consultant focussed on assisting national commissions tasked with strategy development.  She welcomes comments at sheila@loatwork.com.  For upcoming programmes, refer to www.loatwork.com/Senior_Leadership_Introduction.html.

Newspaper Column #10: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part II

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Dec 23, 2012 edition.

Seeing the Trees and the Forest

If the problem is solved, it should not come back.  Period!  We would be seeing results.

If it recurs, then this is a sign that we have not solved it.  Yet.  Period!

Last week, we ran a story of the occurrence (an event) of 9/11, and then we learned it was actually a re-ocurrence (pattern) of an issue that has now become persistent or as we say, stubborn.  The event was not meant to be one-off.

Of course, we know that now.

The more one ‘did this’, the more the other ‘did that back’, which in turn led one to ‘do this’ and so on (see figure).  Similar stories run between the eastern and the western worlds.  Between locals and foreigners, between husband and wife, families, neighbours, communities, organizations, nations, between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, and so on.  You can substitute A and B for any of the above, and it will explain its recurrence.  Try it.

Reinforcing Loop

The purpose of the recurrences is to point to the need to learn of another way to solve stubborn problems.  We learn these by watching its behaviour over time, even before our lifetimes.

Characteristics of vicious cycles

Firstly, the more the cycle runs viciously, the more it becomes expensive.  Think the 2008 economic global recession.  Some would say, we are still feeling its effects, today in 2012.

In circular causality there is NO starting or ending points.  The root cause has a cause.  I know this defies everything we have learned.  This reasoning is important as it will help us appreciate that the starting point is not in any one part of the cycle.

For example, the thinking rainfall causes vegetation is part true.  It is part true, because, vegetation too in turn causes rainfall.  This can also mean we cannot get away by saying that the developed countries have ‘caused’ global warming.  Their TVs and phones are in our homes.  If we did not demand for them, they would not have been producing it.

But unlike a wheel that retards on friction, this one gathers its strength with each iteration of the cycle.  It grows stronger.

The land appears drier.  More youths walk on the streets for jobs.  More adults succumb to HIV.  School grades continue to decline.  Couples divorce.  Addictions increase.  Crime and corruption increases.  And so on.  It is now behaving like a bullet that has just been released from its gun.  It continues to stay on its course and resist our efforts to change it until we are able to see and learn to work with the cycle as a whole.

Yet, separately, both sides would find it difficult to see the interwoven and vicious nature of this circle of causality between the two.

It was obviously difficult for ‘Bush and Bin Laden’ to sit side-by-side with each other, to see for themselves this non-stopping (and vicious) nature of this cycle that keeps all of us in a spin.  It is still difficult today.  It happens to the best of us.  Often, we become too busy either looking out at ourselves or at the other party.  Yet, till we do so, the issue remains unresolved.

Ten years on, from 2011, we now know that this is true.  How about ten years from today?

Lastly, the trick is not about working at it harder.  We have done so exactly that since biblical times.  Having said so, it will be difficult to appreciate this failure, in just seeing our lifetime of experiences.

The solution

But if this circle of causality is the real culprit, then blaming any one side of it will really not solve the problem.  While we could blame the people or government or a sector separately for our woes, we really do so because it is the easier way out.  It is easy because it is the part of the circle of causality that is obvious to us.  We are usually oblivious to the rest of the the circle of causality.

Blaming is therefore not a solution.

Can vicious cycles of causality turn around by itself?  No!

It is like a wheel that has been set into motion.  Like a bullet released from the gun.  It does not reverse its course on its own.

To solve it, first the circle needs to become more obvious to our perceptions.

The solution to this interwoven complexity then lies in working with the interwoven nature of the problem as a whole.  Not directly at the problem per se or parts of the causality.

How do we do then treat these vicious cycles?

Here’s a story to illustrate how this may be done.  This is Part I.  Part II will be presented in the next insert.

The title of the story is, “The Healing Poison”.

A Story

This daughter-in-law (DIL) finds herself in a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law (MIL) (see figure)!

She (DIL) had done everything possible to try and bridge the gap between the two, except the more she tried, the worse their relationship seems to become.  She has now arrived at a point where she has concluded that “The problem is mother-in-law (MIL).  So, if I wish to get rid of the problem, then all I have to do is to get rid of mother-in-law”.

Except, it was not easy, to get rid of MIL.  The more she tried, the more she worried that somebody might suspect it was her.  One afternoon at wits end, as she sat down to rest, she suddenly thought of her favourite uncle.  Someone, whom as she grew up took care of her problems for her and she gas come to respect him for his wisdom.  She decided, she should pay him a visit the very next day to seek help to her current problem.

The uncle was delighted to see her.  As they settled down, she starts talking.  “What is happening?” asks the uncle.  The DIL spills her beans.  So when the uncle asks, “What do you want to do?”, she shares that she’s arrived at this conclusion that should we get rid of the MIL, the problem will be solved!  The uncles probes and asks, so “What do you want me to do about this?”  She quips, “I would like you to help me get rid of MIL!”

“I see.  Wait here”, says the uncle.

A few minutes later, he pops back and this time, he is holding a small bottle with some liquid inside.  He then adds, “Here’s what you need to do.  Every day, drop two drops of this liquid, in a hot cup of milk.  Present the cup of milk to her, one for every night for the next six months, and make sure that she drinks it.”

“Well, that’s easy.  Is there anything else I have to do?”, asks the DIL.

“Yes, there is one more thing you have to do.”  “What is that?” she asks.

“Well,” adds the uncle.  “Every night, when you present the milk to your MIL, you must make sure that you smile.  Because if you do not, somebody might suspect it was you.”

Hmm …. that’s going to be tough.  To smile.  “Are you sure she will be gone, at the end of six months?”  “Yes!”, assured the uncle.” “Well, in that case, I shall do it!”

On that note, the uncle hands the bottle to her and wishes her well.  As the DIL turns quickly to walk back home, you could almost detect a twinkle in the uncle’s eye and a smile on his lips!

Could the uncle see the circle of causality between the two?  Does he see the trees and the forest at the same time?  How about the DIL?  The MIL?  How do you think the story would end?

These will be the subject of discussion of this column in the new year.  Happy discovering and learning with your family and friends over the holidays!

Merry Christmas and of course, wishing you ahead, may everything you wish for, become real for you in the New Year!

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international strategy development consultant for national planning commissions, welcomes comments at sheila@loatwork.com.  For upcoming programmes, refer to www.loatwork.com/Senior_Leadership_Introduction.html.

Newspaper Column #9: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part I

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Dec 16, 2012 edition.

Dynamic Complexity vs. Detail Complexity

We face problems daily.  And, we do not doubt our ability to deal with them.

Sometimes, this confidence can pull wool over our heads that we can deal even with the stubborn ones, in much the same way.  We would say to ourselves, just work harder.  We will overcome it.

Stubborn problems are issues that despite efforts to manage or contain it, while it first they may look like they are relenting, the results are short-lived (two-to-three years).  And, then it comes back again, this time harder and faster.

For example, in our efforts to survive arid conditions, we engage in pastoral farming.  Except, over time, such practices wipe out the greens (as when livestock consume grass) that would otherwise encourage rainfall.  In some countries, this means it gets only summer rainfall.  This causes conditions to become arid even further.

Notice, however, when droughts strike, they wipe out the livestock numbers.  This is an attempt by the system to do a correction, so as to recover itself.  The correction by the system is usually not that visible to us.  We now have a stubborn problem in our hands.

Can you tell, who comes across as more stubborn?

Can you tell, who comes across as more stubborn?

I am sure you can think of lots of other examples of stubborn problems.  Economic growth declines.  Lack of wage increases.  Divorce rates.  Rainfall levels and/or water tables (Nov/Dec 2012 series of this column).  New HIV/AIDs infection (coming in Jan 2013).  Unemployment (October 2012 series).  National school grades.  Performance in agriculture, manufacturing and retail sectors.  Economic diversification.  Crime.  Obesity.  Diabetes.  Road accidents.  Poaching.  Budget deficits.  Wars.  These are some, among others.

Firstly, the stubborn nature in such issues is usually not that easily visible at the onset, till we have had to face them for years on end, sometimes even decades.  It escapes our attention even for the best of us when tasked to manage them for the short-term (three-to-five years).

As legislatures, managers and enforcers we believe in the power of our word or our hands and feet to make a difference to such problems.  We become effective at doling out corrections each time the problem surfaces.

And when we fail to do so, it looks like project implementation is not taking off or the officer or the function is not performing well.  The enemy is out there.  Or, we may sometimes, shrug them off as ‘things that are beyond our borders and therefore our control’.

Where such problems exist, managing one time occurrences are easy.  Recurrence makes them tough.

Two kinds

However, to understand why such problems resist change, we need to first understand what causes their persistence.  To do so, it helps to appreciate that there are two kinds of complexity.  Detail and dynamic complexity.

Most organizations (and professions) are designed to deal with the first kind.  Detail complexity.  As it would be, when one “drills down”.  How many baskets did we sell last month?  What was our profit this year?  How many permits did we issue?  How many crimes were committed?

We are not quite organized to deal with the second.  What causes sales or profits to keep falling?  Or why does crime keep rising?

But first, what does the word complexity mean here?  The dictionary says “it consists of related parts” (as in composites) or “complicated” (as in a complex problem).

But it is perhaps the Latin word “complexus” from which this word derives its meaning that sets it apart for us.  It says “embracing, interwoven”.

To see the interwoven nature of a problem, it would require our minds to “zoom out” from the problem.  However, our years of drilling our minds down to details, makes the experience of letting go of the problem to see its dynamic nature, a new and rather anxious one for many of us.  It is understandable.

However, when we do not see the interwoven nature of these issues, it makes some of the most persistent issues of the day, well … remain stubborn.   Yet the solutions to some of our most pressing issues lie in learning to see and work with this interwoven nature.  There is no easy way out.  No shortcuts.  No magic pill.  Unfortunately.

First, let’s see what the interwoven nature of a problem would look like.

Interwoven nature of reality

We shall use an example.

Let’s go back to 2001.  9/11: The day when the two planes hit the World Trade Centre.  Notice what happened.  Overnight, airports around the world responded in exactly the same way.  First stunned.  And then a mad scramble to ‘shore its security’.  Yes?

Overnight, we saw passengers snake their way over two-hour waits to security screens.  No belt, shoe or stone were left unturned.  Do you remember those days?

One passenger underwent several levels of security screenings.  A typical airport would have thousands of passengers passing through its doors in a single day.  In a month or in a year, we would say well, that was a lot of work!

What would you call that kind of complexity?  This is what we refer to as ‘Detail Complexity’.

Most professions and performance management systems have their focus on this.

Systemic Thinking on the other hand, focusses its attention on ‘Dynamic Complexity’.

Let’s go back to the same context.

To find the dynamic complexity we start by asking, ‘why did we do what we did’?  Why did we build those screens?

Well we say it was important to do that so as to ‘weed the terrorists out’.

Yet, should we go across to “the enemy”, and ask the question, “From your view, who would you say, is the terrorist?”  What do you think would be their answer?  Did somebody whisper, “The other side”.  You bet!

So what do you notice?

Can you see what causes its recurrence?  Some might add, the recurrence has been happening since biblical times.  If so, will doing ‘corrections’ by one side acting on the other’ ever put a stop to the other side doing its corrections to us?   We know, that will not stop the problem.  And continuing to fight ‘the other side’, becomes very expensive.

But notice this dynamic complexity view becomes clearer to see when we zoom away from the bustle of managing the activities at the airports.

Why is it important to see this inter-relationship?  How then, do we handle such problems?  How do we handle Dynamic Complexities?

This will be the subject of the 2nd part of this article.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international strategy development consultant for national planning commissions welcomes comments at sheila@loatwork.com.  For upcoming programmes, refer to www.loatwork.com/Senior_Leadership_Introduction.html.

Article 1: The Magic of Systems Thinking!

Dear all,

Hope this mail finds all of you in good spirits among all that you wish for in your life.

Some of you may know that I have been away from Singapore since 2007 being part of a programme here in Botswana where I had assisted the government learn and appreciate the five disciplines in dealing with persistent or stubborn issues that faces the nation.    These range from issues such as unemployment and budget deficits to standards of education levels to HIV/AIDs and other health scares.    The use of the five disciplines till today, continue to amaze me the ease with which the five disciplines help anyone provide clarity on why issues resist change and what causes its sustained stubbornness.

My focus and attention these days is in assisting governments in the planning of systemic development of their regional, sectoral and national strategies.    Organizational plans and programmes for departments and performance management (people) and project monitoring may be the next steps from this process.    Learning about the five disciplines is a first step in the (20-part) process of teams that work with me.

Today was one of those days when I seem to be living one of my dream days.  We may not see it when we are in it, but as I step back from the day, it fits to a tee.

I had made a visit to a media house, where I was meeting someone I had come to seek his help on reaching potential clients through the media.  He is a young person, perhaps in his early thirties.  Let me refer to him as YP here.  I am planning to expand my practice in the region and was working on the idea of running one-day programmes for the public at large here and was at the media house to explore my options in placing some adverts with them.

I am writing here the conversation as it happened as it would allow us to appreciate how as conversations go back and forth between individuals, one may appreciate a little better how talking about systems thinking can excite people but I was particularly struck by a couple of epiphanies that was happening for the both of us as a result of the conversation.

YP:  So what is that you do?

Sheila:  I do a work involving the discipline of systems thinking (immediately most minds think it is computer systems) to deal with stubborn problems.  (Immediately YP’s eyes puckered up to show he is confused.  )

Sheila:  Well, let’s think HIV/AIDs infection rates or water shortages faced by the country.  For how many years or has it decades would you say have we been trying to tackle it?

YP:  Yes, you are right.  Well, from the time they started presenting themselves in the 80s and 60s respectively.

Sheila:  How have such issues behaved over time till today?

(We both then pour over a piece of paper, where I draw the X and Y axis and while today’s situation on HIV/AIDs show a significant levels of decline from its peak in the 1990s, it has not found itself back to zero yet.  It is hovering about 15-30% rates of the population.  YP watches the graph and agrees quickly.  I then pose another question).

Sheila:  How would we draw the graph of the investments we have poured into this programme?(again we pour ourselves over the same graph and draw a graph that shows, the rate of investments have unrelented showing a steady incline over the years, that today they are surpassing levels that we have imagined was necessary.  YP’s eyes light up as he now sees what a stubborn problem means).  Sheila (continues):  Given the rate at which we have poured investments and how it has surpassed the trends for infections, we should have been successful at bringing it down .  .  .  .   by now.  Yes?

YP:  Yes.

Sheila:  And then here’s how we really tell we have a stubborn problem to start with.  Supposing the money was not there, what would the (real trend) for HIV/AIDs look like?YP (adds slowly):  It would have looked like the graph that looks like the rate we have been pouring money in to deal with it – an unrelentless increase than can quite quickly spread itself even beyond the borders of the country.

Sheila:  Yes, you are right!  That pattern that you see in front of you is a pattern caused by a vicious circle of causality that keeps pushing the trend one way, upwards and faster, like an exponential line.  That graph is a sign that whatever causes the rate of increase of infection HIV (notice I did not say the next infection) is no longer a linear or straight-line causality but the causality has now closed itself in and it is now assuming a reinforcing behaviour like a wheel that does not stop, assuming greater levels of force and speed in each iteration.  Think hurricane.  This is the battle we are fighting.  However, pouring water on the fire when we do not know what is causing the fire to keep coming back, is money down the drain.  The fire will not stop.  [The phone rings.  YP is clearly irritated by the distraction.  He answers it and returns quickly back to the discussion.  Remember he is still at work!]

YP:  Now I get it!  Wow!  My this is so exciting to see it.  (he pauses and then continues)

YP:  What about if we use this work to look at other current concerns we face in a country?  One thing that bothers me is the declining levels of standards of education we face in our public schools in the country.  Each year we see that the grades of new graduands from the system, make lower standards of education compared to earlier years (and then he adds – he now has a new language) despite as a government and as a country we had poured more money each year.  How would we use something like this to understand why that may be happening?[When he opened the new question, I felt suddenly, that I was back at my sessions, and that felt really good – despite I was well aware that I was sitting in a cubicle of one of the front desk officers in a media house.  It still was somehow befitting.  I allowed it.]

Sheila:  This story is classic to one of the laws that we hold in this work, which is the area of highest strategic leverage is one that is the least obvious.  Today, as Ministry of Education, the Minister sees teachers as a means to aid students raise their standards of education.  And teachers carry out this role diligently believing that should they pour ‘from their container’ to the ‘container of the child’, the child with enough hard work should reach their standards.  Sometimes this strategy works.  Most times it does not.  [At that point, I draw on another piece of paper a quick set of factors that distinguishes education from learning.  ]

Sheila: Education is a physical and mental process very much influenced by external factors that we can see and touch, such as the quality of the infrastructure, teachers, books, stationery and general education environment including those we set at home, all of which is a mandate a Ministry of Education can easily set for itself.  An area however that sits next to impossible and so falls easily outside the mandate of education is learning.

Learning unlike education is a purely emotional process and very personal.  [It is not a one-off process that happens when we buy a school book that we think the child needs for his education.  It is a process that is largely driven by the person himself or herself and cannot be led by an external force.  It comes from an inner drive spurred on by sense of curiosity and a hunger to want to learn something for the sake of seeking knowledge for itself (learning about something as it is) and not what it may do (how) for the owner of the knowledge.  I can learn about ‘the principle of moments’ in physics, because it will aid me in using a screwdriver to do things with less effort.  Or I can learn about ‘moments’ and be stunned by how such knowledge grew in people’s minds to be able to write it down for others to see and therefore learn from.]

Sheila (continues):  However the bedrock of that emotional development is a function of the child’s relationship with his parent.  When the child sees two things that his parent’s show,  i. e.   the parent’s behave as if they are still on a journey of learning and not they have arrived at a destination.  This experience is often a product of a person who believes in himself.  When one does not, we find having to stay on a journey becomes a restless activity, unlike the sense of comfort we have when we arrive home.  And when parents believe in themselves, it often becomes easier for the parent to believe in his child as well.  A child that sees a parent who believes in the child, often finds it easier for itself to grow to believe in itself.  When parents do not spend the time with the child, as it may be for parents that stay apart or grow a child up single-handedly, such parents will find it harder to be consistent in relaying such emotions and beliefs to his child.  Sheila (continues):  A child who does not believe in himself, will find learning for the sake of learning a difficult experience.  Learning becomes a means to another end.  Not an end in itself.  The result:  School grades decline.

Sheila (continues):  But the Ministry of Education thinks it does not have a ‘mandate or control on the above area’.  It has started on a battle (in education) that is not designed to win but to just get by.  Sheila (continues):  Parents’ emotional relationship with a child is a necessary part in nurturing the spirit of learning and it happens indirectly (hence the ‘least obvious’).  Teachers play a role as far as in furthering education but can play little beyond that in a space at trying to replace the role a parent plays in fostering the conditions needed for the spirit of learning to grow for the child.

YP:  So, that’s why MOE did not have much impact through its current programmes.  Parents are the missing key in the equation.  But, most of us in the country raise our children single-handedly and we are focus on seeing our children on a need ‘to pay school fees’ basis.  How then would we foster such beliefs?  I see this step happening as next to impossible.  What causes couples to stay separately and not grow to be together?

Well,  .  .  .   you can now guess what happened next!

We spent the next hour or so, looking at issues ranging from couples learning to grow closer, to rates of vehicle accidents on the roads, to private sector growths, to impending labour strikes, to agricultural outputs, to rainfall level behaviour, to unemployment levels, to divorces.  Both of us did not see the time pass by and literally forgot that we were right in the middle of a room that deals with front desk issues.  The learnings on the other hand were non-stop.

And then the following epiphanies began to hit the both of us!

We all know that Systems Thinking is a process of searching for what’s causing something to keep coming back at us – a search for the vicious circles of causality.  Each time as we brought ourselves through a different circle of causality, we began to realize:

  • Epiphany #1: When the practice is carried out in a consistent and disciplined way, it does something to our minds.  As we keep seeing circles unfold from the straight-line thinking, and almost like ‘magic’, we find ourselves willing to let go of whatever we are focused on or tied to (and tends to burgeon, be they levels of poverty, malnutrition, labour and political unrests, unemployment, etc.  ) to seeing ‘the bigger picture’ of what’s causing us to be bogged down.  It is an experience of zooming out.  We see the forest now and we gasp with surprise.
  • Epiphany #2: The effect of zooming out begins to also help us in the process of stretching or as we say broadening the mind.  This is more than just joining the dots or arrows or seeing the details of a circular causality.  Here’s the magic:  It is the ability of the mind to see itself zooming out of a situation.  This experience is not an ordinary experience.  It is new to the mind.  We usually drill inwards.  Not out.  It is unusual.  And when the mind sees itself zooming out, something else happens to the mind.  It learns to let go of our fears in overcoming the problems.  We begin to realize the baselessness of straight line cause-effect thinking in dealing with vicious problems and so is an overbearing focus on ‘core mandates’ or missions or goals.  We begin to see how they pay attention to a part of the circle of causality – and why such thinking would not take us far from the realities we are facing.  We begin to see how we will be led back to the problem again.  Our minds are stretched.
  • Epiphany #3: The immediate reaction to the above is, once the mind has been ‘stretched’ in this way, it does not as easily snap back to where it was before.

If these do not happen to us, then systemic thinking has not quite worked (its magic) on us as yet.  Don’t give up yet.

However, do not blame the tools of or the discipline of systems thinking or yourself for not experiencing “the magic”.  Blame the consistency of the practice of that discipline.  This is often the reason systemic thinking defies immediate replicability.   The ability to analyse comes with the willingness to be disciplined by the discipline of Systems Thinking.

Do talk about it within your communities and share your reflections with us.

Article 4: Remove self-doubt. Replace Visions.

Under construction
Under construction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The two however, does not exist together.

It is one or the other.  But not both.

Article 5: Growing Virtuous Cycles

Under construction
Under construction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Find the vicious cycles and turn them around.

Article 3: We are peaceful people

Under construction

Under construction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We are peaceful people,” because we do not talk to each other when we are feeling angry (about something or somebody).

Instead we keep it (bottled) inside within us (causing our body blood pressures and the cost of running the Ministry of Health in the country both to rise).  We do this, because, “should we not bottle it within, and let it out, then than talk through things, we are likely to end up ‘killing each other'”.

So, we keep quiet.  Therefore we are a peaceful nation.

Have you heard of this phrase before?

Well … welcome to the world of non-generative conversations!  This is the world of not understanding and learning to work with distinctions or differences that exist between us.

When we reach a certain age, we do not expect to stay in conversation.  We expect to be heard rather than hear.  Conjure images of persons watching you speak as they listen.  This bodes well in most of our minds as we reach significant positions or age.   We often relegate pictures of dialogue and being in conversations to women, young persons, inter-generational conversations, and perhaps spouses.  But not the rest of us.

Discussions, Yes.  Debates, Yes, Negotiation, Yes.

Dialogue?  No.  The buck stops there.  That’s where we draw the line.

Men and women handle anger differently.  Men seek that space to figure out by himself what he would need to do next.  Women on the other find ways to close that space so she may express her feelings about her anger to someone who is willing to hear her, so that when she sees and feels she is being heard, she allows herself to release the pain enough to free up space within her to figure what she needs to do and so then becomes clearer what to do next.

But when women handle anger the way the men does and she’s not figuring out what to do, except to shut the world out from her, we are heading right into trouble.   As a nation, there is a crisis.  A personal as well as an identity crisis.  A crisis brought on by not knowing what to do.  Men become “lost” in this too as they are not hearing from their woman what is it that he needs to do differently and why so.  As a result, both sides stay polarized in their positions.   There is stuckness.  The easy way out of such polarization is to shut out one’s world from the other.

But for a woman such an action is likely to work against her.  It leads her to stay stuck in her hole.  She possibly comes out of it, bitter as her emotions are not yet been given space and time to be heard and for her to feel she is understood by someone other than herself.  This level of emotional validation is central to her personal well-beingness [this runs contrary to work spaces that advocate for professionalism or that emotional behaviors are discouraged or even frowned upon].   She may become distracted by life, even resorting to addictive tendencies (such as drinking or smoking), but she continues to stay unresolved internally.  It is more likely to lead her to a meltdown one day or she may end up over-consuming to a point that now illnesses take over and ride out her life.  Men however deal with such situations by living out their fantasy to be able to fly, disappear and reappear and zip in and out of realities as they see fit.  They lose touch with the realities and families around them.  Women, on the other hand, behave the ways of the men, either because that’s the behaviour they see of someone with whom they feel intimate with and look upon as their leader (be they the father, brother, boyfriend or husband) or do not have another female person or mentor in guiding them in the ways of the women that are emotionally (compared to physically) distinct from men.

But do we understand such distinctions exist between men and women or even just between ourselves?  What is getting in the way of us understanding such differences?

And particularly when men do not participate in dialogue, they miss out on a whole side of the story that is not partial to their own points of view.

What about differences in the ways we view at issues?  How would we handle them?

Article 2: Setting goals is the easy part. Reaching them is not!


It is a management question.

Are you there yet?  What are you doing to get there?  Have you set goals for you and your team?

Yet, setting of goals is really the easy part.  And there are tons of research and help on how we may do so and even on how to manage the settings.  Making out a list of “Things to do today” is one such everyday activity and we are pretty good at it.

However, reaching them is another story.  And there is not as much research on why it does not happen or how it may happen for our organizations.  And not to say, much help.

It is an area that we stay quiet on.  Sometimes, even a undiscussable.


And we learn over time with experience that using charisma, meeting of heads, efforts at cascading, seeking to agree, cajole, counsel and sometimes even assuming punitive stances does not realistically make that much of a difference in reaching those goals or implementing programmes as an institution or as a nation in a sustainable way.

And we may carry out various activities to do so.  Be it implementing performance management systems, setting of directives, designing project management, re-engineering business processes, coaching, mentoring, going for corporate retreats, organizing seminars, conferences, district and village meetings and signing of memorandums, monitoring and evaluation and so on.  The list of work required to reach those goals is seemingly endless and appears necessary.  But the price we pay as a nation is heavy (including for our attorneys).

We all know this deeply; though we may not necessarily say it out aloud.  We do lead ourselves to believe they work, and yet sometimes we would rather choose to continue to lower our standards in reality to meet realistic levels of achievement over time and not understand what’s getting in the way of reaching those goals.   The former is easier.  The latter is harder.  And we are sometimes not aware that such things may be happening to us.  Often we assume the reason is the fault of the employee, or of the team manager or of the market or of the citizens or even the global recession.  And we get away by blaming “them out there”.  We get away with crime!

However, the bottom line is the ability of the organization and / or of the nation to sustain itself.

When we do not do so, it usually shows up in our balance sheets as deficits.  Eventually.  Sometimes sooner than we expect leading us to make call outs to government for bailouts, bank loans or grants and aids.  Nevertheless, we would start the same rigmarole all over again when given a second chance.


What are we not learning?

The reasons cited above are what we see on the tip.  The obvious reasons.

The ones the problems present to us if we are not careful in search for the reasons more deeply.  Those are usually not the real ones.

If you have come this far, I am sure you are not surprised by this conclusion.  The real reasons are less obvious because they have become what we call cyclical in nature or assumes a systemic quality.   Systemic because of key interrelationships (vicious circles) that have taken on a quality of recurrent influence / causality over time.

When they assume that recurrent influence, they also tend to worsen in each iteration of the cycle and therefore these cycles grows deeper and away from our everyday perceptions of reality (underlying).  These structures do also one more thing.  They typically learn to defy any efforts on our part to ‘correct’ the situation or a problem with the programmes or initiatives institutions come up with.  Therefore programme or activity implementation efforts tend to stand to fail or do not reach the goals set for them.

Identifying these vicious circles require investigation and a tactic that is very different from the straight-line approaches we are used to when dealing with them.  One that requires the mind ‘to bend’.  The causality is not that much different from one nation to another (and so much less differences exist between institutions), nevertheless, rather than leave participants with the solution, I prefer participants learn to discover the reasons jointly with each other whilst with the facilitator.  This is strategic.

In this way, the participants learn to leave the sessions carrying with them in their minds and hearts ways to continue to deepen their practice with each other over time to get to the bottom of the issue, and eventually to reach there by themselves.

Regional Article 23: Unemployment, labour disputes, economic diversification and fertility


Most countries think supply of labour should drive demand.  We forget then (or choose not to admit to ourselves) that it is demand that drives supply in any situation.  Not the other way around.  It is just not realistic to believe that because we have so many ‘young ones’ here, that there should be jobs out there for them.  But we do.  The two however are not related in reality.  But we ‘force that relationship in our minds’.

When we dug for data over time, to our surprise we were noticing that unlike what the country thought, its population was not declining.  Yes, it’s overall population numbers may be dropping to attrition due to deaths (in part speeded up along by HIV/AIDs) and migration.  However, its fertility rate on the other hand had been quite high and continues to grow.

English: Total Fertility Rate vs GDP per capit...

English: Total Fertility Rate vs GDP per capita (2009, USD). Only countries with over 5 Million population were plotted to reduce outliers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what was causing its fertility rates to increase?

This was in part driven by a few reasons.

The first, and the least inconspicuous of the three was a hidden matriarchal system (the mothers and women here wield more power than it thought).  This was fuelled by fears of security they held on to as young women themselves as they watched their husbands leave them for long-term employment in mines in neighbouring countries and had to learn to cope to fend for themselves and their children very quickly.  Over time, this evolved to driving their children to produce more children in the belief that the more there are children within one’s own family, the more potential the family had in  eventually bringing in income from their lands and the economy.  It was a long-term retirement plan for the women. (Need for Security on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Men on the other hand, played a hand in this too, each trying to outdo the other in producing children.  The more children he had, the better a man he was going to be in the eyes of the persons around him.  It was an immediate gratification or ego trip for the men (Need for Ego / Belonging on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

These children in turn grew up over time, seeing a world where they knew who were their friends and who were their enemies and this line was drawn up by who is within their core family and who was outside it (to a point it sometimes included the fathers who bore them).  This often meant that as they grew up they were learning not to ‘let go of the families they were born into’ enough to build long-term relationships with their spouses (someone who is ‘outside’ their families) and their in-laws to help build core family systems (husband, wife and their children) for themselves.   It was the need for maintaining or finding sense of belonging for the child or security in the familiarity or long-term childhoodness which sometimes perpetuated in older age as girlfriendhood or boyfriendhood syndrome and the need in not having to assume responsibilities for the consequences of one’s actions.  (Need for Security on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

The core Brodie family (L-R: Adeeb, Leyla, Con...

The core Brodie family (L-R: Adeeb, Leyla, Conor, Michael, Nicole) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hence this meant the demise of the core family system and the growth and existence of the extended family as a support system for the individuals.  Today, these numbers are rising up to 70% levels.  Less than 30% levels of the population stay married and these numbers continue to decline.

However, when core families do not develop within the system, the system (particularly the males) does not learn a key lesson of life which is “what it takes to hold, build and share perspectives outside its comfort zones needed for a more “collaborative, extended and systemic organizations and industrial relations” and therefore the birth and growth of corporations (by the locals).

This would lead locals themselves particularly as the males to learn to build (not just participate) the economy.  For men to do so, it is in part as a result of the type of relation he enjoys with his spouse (but not his mother).  The more intimate the couple is emotionally (not just physically), the greater is his sense of resilience and motivation he is able to gain to meet and overcome the challenges he would face in the world of businesses and the economy.

Sir Robert Hotung, with his 3 generations of e...

Sir Robert Hotung, with his 3 generations of extended family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so, when the economy does not grow, it is unable to create more jobs within the economy (as revenues are declining as much as costs may be rising) and therefore, unemployment continues to exist and worsens in the face of growing population numbers (fertility) which means the family in turn finds more of its people are not participating in the economy and therefore able to bring in resources into it. When this part of a man’s life is not growing, he becomes more conservative and reserved and succumbs to addictions, substance abuses and violence and a general disregard for respect for themselves and others.  The signals a death knell for the economy.   The organized economy suffers.  The subsistence economy takes over.

Gradually, this in turn leads women to bear children outside of marital relations (most children born in this country are born to women who are not married and that trend is rising).

In the mind of the woman, bearing a child to a man (particularly if he has the means to support relative to herself) would ensure a somewhat steady source of income for their family through their children (sometimes to the point of coercing the father of the child to continue to bear expenses for it and the family) or it stops the existing male persons within the extended family to build relations outside his family in order to support the needs of the family (to children and sisters who are not married).

Have we come full circle yet?  Do you see the vicious circle?

How would we treat this vicious problem?

Can the government realistically solve this problem?

Do not expect to learn to solve the problem, if one did not create the problem!


Sectoral Article 22: Not enough manpower! Where did all the good men go?

Sectoral Article 21: If it keeps coming back, did we really think it was urgent?

Regional Article 20: Why do disputes by labor (with unions) and employers go up?

  1. Despite our efforts to set up judiciary courts to preside over cases involving employers and employees embroiled in disputes with each other as well as educate ‘people’ on ways to avoid disputes with each other, why do relations between employers and employees continue to sour and such disputes tend to soar year after year?  Surely, it should have made a dent to the trend by now.  If not, why so?   As this forces us to allocate even further public resources to it the following year!
  2. Think how much money we have poured (country after country) to ‘douse the flames and put out the smoke’ after thirty, forty, fifty years of working at our industrial relation efforts.  Has that been little amount of money?
  3. So why do things not change?
  4. Will it get better?  Or can it get worse?

Why do things happen that way?  Why are such trends resisting our efforts to control it (for the sake of up-liftment of our economies, we would argue)?

National Article 19: What causes fidelity?

We know what causes infidelity?

But what causes fidelity?  Whatever that causes fidelity, when it is not there, causes infidelity!

So, what causes fidelity?

A couple goes through different stages or types of intimacy during their times together and experience one or more stages in their lifetime.  To the extent the couple moves through the different stages would depend on the time and attention they place on their relationship.  These include with no specific order or preference i.e. being:

  • Sexually intimate with each other (be it where the couple experiences sexual intimacy either regularly, or on an ad-hoc basis)
  • Physically intimate (where the couple moves to live in the same space together)
  • Emotionally intimate (where the couple enjoys a relationship where each helps the other meet their needs emotionally; here the couple has learned to understand each others’ pasts as well as learnt to share and value unique moments together such as dinners, holidays, family events, and so on.)
  • Mentally intimate (where the couple has learned to see the view of the partner not from one’s own perspective but that of the partner’s and in doing so learns to bring their minds together so that they may plan their lives together from the past, present and into the future and not meet their future as contingent (“let’s cross the bridge when we get there”. i.e, there is child born to them and so they need to meet its living and educational expenses, and so on)
  • Spiritually intimate (where each regard the other as their soul-mate and enjoy a celestial or soul mate experience together)

Where do you think sexual fidelity begins to happen for the couple?  Would it be at sexual intimacy or at physical intimacy or when the couple has learned to experience emotional intimacy?

What does sexual fidelity look like?  It includes among other things, a willingness by each person in the relationship to regard his or her partner as:

  • The only sexual partner for life;
  • Where the relationship is not given (as in blood relations), but the couple has chosen to learn to want to be together;
  • The relationship has grown beyond physical intimacy to include (or aspires to include) all or other forms of intimacy between the two and not limited to one or two out of the five;
  • The couple is in the relationship because they ‘want to’ and not because they ‘had to’ (it is an obligation or transaction or choices made by parents or forced to) be in it;
  • The couple regards each’s relationship with the other emotionally (as opposed to physically, materially, mentally) as equals and not assumes either as superior (head of the household) or inferior (submissive) to the other.

Did you say, the above (particularly sexual fidelity) happens when the couple learns to build emotional intimacy?  Yes, you are right!  We know couple who have reached the first two stages in the relationship and have even chosen to marry each other, yet, do not necessarily enjoy sexual fidelity with each other.

So how does emotional intimacy happen?  Does it happen magically or it requires hard work on both sides?  How would they need to work with each other so that they meet the other’s needs emotionally?

The following is something I have found useful as a I work with Dr Gray’s work.  It helps appreciate the level of intimacy that may happen for a couple.

  • What do you notice happening between the two (notice the threads in red)?
  • Does it happen one way or would it need to happen two-ways?
  • Are the needs of the two genders the same?
  • So who starts first?
  • Do these steps happen overnight or do they take time?
  • Do they happen by accident or it helps that both sides of the couple first really appreciate what really ticks the other in (or off)?
  • How would such learning happen?  It is easier if one sees one’s parents do it?  However, should that not be the case, what are the implications for society, the couple and the future?  What could happen differently?

She Needs He Needs
CaringWhen he shows interest in a woman’s feelings and heartfelt concern for her well-being, she begins to trust him more TrustWhen she believes in her man’s abilities and intentions that he is doing his best and that he wants the best for his partner, he is more caring and attentive to her feelings and needs
UnderstandingWhen he listens without judgment but with empathy, the easier it is for her to give her man the acceptance he needs AcceptanceWhen she receives a man without trying to change him, he listens and gives her the understanding she needs
RespectWhen he acknowledges her rights, wishes, and needs, she feels respected.  It is easier for her to give her man the appreciation he deserves AppreciationWhen she acknowledges having received personal benefit and value from a man’s effort and behaviour, he feels appreciated.  He knows his effort is not wasted and is thus encouraged to give more and he respects his partner more.
DevotionWhen he gives priority to a woman’s needs and proudly commits himself to supporting and fulfilling her, the woman thrives and feels adored.  When she feels number one in his life, she admires him. Admiration– When she admires him with wonder, delight and pleased approval, he feels secure enough to devote himself to his woman and adore her.
ValidationWhen he does not object to a woman’s feelings and instead accepts their validity, she truly feels loved and gives the approval the man needs. ApprovalWhen she sees her man as her knight in shining armour and recognizes the good reasons what he does, she signals that he has passed her tests and this becomes easier for him to confirm her feelings.
ReassuranceWhen he repeatedly shows that he cares and devotes himself to his partner (the woman should come to expect sexual fidelity and that the man provides and protects her exclusively), tells a woman that she is continually loved.  He must remember to reassure her again and again.  This moves her to encourage him to be a man bigger than himself. Encouragement– A man primarily needs to be encouraged, understood and if need to see the woman sympathize and he sees her stands by him.  Her encouraging attitude gives hope and courage to a man by expressing confidence in his abilities and character.  When her attitude expresses trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration and approval, it encourages a man to be all that he can be.  This motivates him to give her the loving reassurance she needs.

National Article 18: What would it take to ‘cure’ HIV?

Should we pay attention to:

  1. Curing the disease when it is already transmitted (attack the problem that we can see)? or
  2. Preventing the disease from being transmitted (defend ourselves from the problem?) or
  3. ‘Cure’ ‘the reason that causes the disease to be transmitted (what causes the problem)?

Let’s take this situation.  Suppose there is a couple, both of whom are HIV positive and both are sexually fidel to each other.  Given so, would the two increase the prevalence of the disease ‘out there’ in society?   No, you say?  You are right!

So when does the disease increase its prevalence?

It (only) happens when one or both partners choose the act of infidelity with each other.  Should partners choose fidelity with each other, transmission of the disease is likely to plunge immediately across society.  And plunge faster than any interventions by government or organizations will make it possible.

And it is (way) cheaper.  There is the price we pay for not dealing with the causality.  And the price tag is US$27 billion! and that is just by one country – USA. That is money that could have been somebody’s salary increase. However, I suppose when we do not figure these out, we probably do not deserve those salary increases!  Otherwise, it can easily be there for our takings.

Now, this was interesting for the Department of HIV/AIDs because a big part of its efforts and budgets placed to curb the epidemic was to ‘prevent the disease being transmitted between mother to child’.  However when they recognized that 80% or so transmissions are because of indiscretions by couples in their sexual behaviour (and the primary causality of the disease), they began to realize that whilst they worked hard to stop the disease being transmitted from mother to child and hospitals therefore saved the child from its mother but when the child grows up, and becomes an adult, it is possible that the child may not be able to save from itself should it engage in sexually indiscriminate practices itself!  The money it had used to save the child, ‘literally was now become money that it had poured down the drain’!

But it is harder to ‘work on the fidelity between the couple’ in the bedroom.  It is easier to manage the transmission at the hospital between the mother and the child.  So we ignore it, choosing easier ways out such as resorting to dispensing condoms, or encouraging practices of circumcision among men or extolling the vices of maintaining sexual networks or encourage total abstinence.  They work somewhat, but not realistically enough to make sure the country will meet its target of zero infection rates.  Yet, we are not talking as yet for us to learn what it takes for couples to learn to want to be together and afterwards it learns to also exercise sexual fidelity between each other.  Till we get there, can we expect to solve this problem?  No.  You can deal a blow, but not solve it.

So, what causes sexual fidelity?  Or have you too given up that the idea is possible?

Notice most sexual indiscretions happen away from the glare of the ‘day’ and under the cover of the night and in spots that are deliberately designed to keep ‘the authorities out’ (see pages 3-5) and apparent ‘disorder in’?  What are we hiding from?  Who are we running from and then afterwards who are we running into?  There lies the answer to our questions on fidelity!

So what would lead a couple to become fidel with each other?

English: Diagram showing relative global AIDS ...

Image via Wikipedia

HIV/AIDS prevelance worldmap

Image via Wikipedia

Regional Article 17: Is unemployment real?


In a country, where levels of unemployment stay persistent over time, then it is a sign that the rates of growth of the supply of labour (population numbers -” child creation”) each year is growing at rates faster than the rate of growth of the demand for labor  (job creation).  And we as a nation are not noticing these two trends.  Period.

When the supply consistently outstrips demand over time, we have persistent unemployment.  It is an unhealthy situation (as we would have with when supply of manufactured goods exceeds their demand we would have a drop in prices, when supply of rainfall exceeds demand for water, we have  rising water levels, when supply of migrant influx exceeds rate of city planning we have slums, and so on).  Unemployment is a function of how these two variables are behaving relative to each other.  Period.

And should the problem be led by the supply of labour, we need to be realistic to expect that the demand for labour (be they by job vacancies by the private (employment) or the government sectors (education, employment) will grow fast enough to overtake and get rid of the state unemployment in the country.  Seeing scenes of citizens walking the streets looking for jobs is here to stay.  Period.  Again.

What influences the supply of labor?

The rate of supply of labour is influenced by the rate of the population’s growth (i.e. procreation).  The only issue is the supply we see today of twenty and thirty-year olds in the labour market, was set into motion twenty or thirty years ago.  By the population.  The children born then have today become the youth and labour of today …. and therefore today’s unemployment.

In most cases, the populace do not see the relationship of the birth-rates of yesteryears (well pretty much like what happens between the sheets and the timing of births) and much less so their impacts on the labor supply for tomorrow.  It is and is likely to stay “unrelated” in our minds for as long as these inter-relationships are not raised and discussed by all.  Instead, our mind replaces that (“vacuüm in our) thought by fears of our survival or security for our future should “if “the one, two or three” dies or moves away tomorrow?” (this is the voice of the grandmother in the lesser developed  countries).  So, we multiply … mindlessly.

But there is a misconception and it is unfortunate!

Supply does not drive the demand for labour.  This  means, that ‘should there be excess labour’, it is not to say that the demand for labour should go up.  It could go up for compassionate reasons but not on economic grounds.  We forget that in reality, it is the demand for labour that drives its supply.  Period.

What influences the demand for labour?

I sometimes joke, it is often easier to “create children” than it is to “create jobs”.   But in both cases,  the “jobs” are done by the “same person” – Adults.  So well, how is it then that we do not see how we are attempting to solve a problem we have created by our own volition?

Also the mind that ‘looks for a job’ for oneself to feed my children, is not the mind that learns to ‘create jobs’ for others, including for our children.

So it is the fault of the ‘bosses’ for not creating jobs, or the ‘fault of the rest of us’ for not thinking about creating jobs for others (while we are busy trying to find one for ourselves)?

What influences our ability to create  jobs?

It is dependent on the propensity by the same adults of the country to grow the economy, i.e. the private sector.  It includes us defining the ability of the country (and sector / industries) to see :

  1. Capital, flow into the economy (and not the family only)
  2. Increase of the economy’s revenue and
  3. Reduction in the costs of running the economy
  4. Diversification of the economy (systemic growth)
As the margin between the two widens, so to does the country’s / industry’s capacity to see:
  1. Creation of further posts for existing employees to progress into
  2. With progression of existing employees in moving to higher level jobs, it leaves the posts vacant for younger entrants (youths) to more easily enter the labour market
  3. More likelihood of higher wages increase across the board for all

This is dependent on the systemic development (what diversification could look like) of the economy, e.g. the story of the dairy milk production.

So, is this just a case of “not enough jobs”?  Yes? Given what?  We would need to complete the sentence … for everyone!

  1. What should we be doing today to solve the problem of  unemployment?  Who is the ‘we’?  The government?  The private sector?  The public sector?  The citizens?  The male or the man (the demand for labour?)?  The female or the woman (the supply of labour?)?
  2. What, in your view, would  citizens need to understand about these realities before they begin ‘discussions about unemployment’ in the country and to figure their own ways to turn the situation around?
  3. When should we be thinking about the solution to the problem?  When we create the problem or when the problem leads us to another problem?

What are the roles of the wife, mother and the man in turning these situations around?

Which role as a woman does she have an impact on the growing the demand for labour?

Which role does she have an impact on growing the supply of labour?  What is motivating her?

What roles are the men play in each of their relationships with these women?  As the son or the man?

Which role of the man helps grow the demand for labour (job creation) in the economy?

As the son or the man?

But this reasoning almost also begs the question, what were we doing when ‘the spark’ sparked the problem?

Sleeping, you say?

Ahh ….. SURE!

World map showing countries by nominal GDP per...

unemployment rate

English: unemployement rates in OECD countries...

Image via Wikipedia

English: Unemployment rate in Europe (UE) and ...

Image via Wikipedia

English: selfmade image of U.S. Unemployment r...

Population, Landscape, and Climate Estimates, ...

Population, Landscape, and Climate Estimates, v3: Population Density 1990, Africa (Photo credit: SEDACMaps)

Global: Settlement Points

Global: Settlement Points (Photo credit: SEDACMaps)

National Article 16: So, who is the (real) criminal?

Stressed so I took my boss hostage (thesun.co.uk)

I found this part interesting:

Thompson then tied his victim to a chair and subjected him to a 20-minute ordeal that left Mr Grady suffering depression and post-traumatic stress. He remains off work five months later.

The court heard the worker (Thomson) told his boss: “This is the only way people will listen to me. I told them I was dangerous.

It is painful to be the victim.  So we go after the criminal.

Yet there is no criminal until there is an act of crime.

But, who or what is the cause of the act of crime?

Do our Penal Codes deal with the reasons for the act or the acts themselves?

But if we wish to bring crime down, would it suffice to focus on the acts?

Do you think ‘crime’ and ‘the quality of our listening to each other’ are inter-related?

So can crime necessarily be linked by race, nationality or tribal or is there something deeper veiled by those words that we are not watching (or listening to)?  What is that?

Are the ways we listen to men (or boys), the same as it would be as listening to women (girls)?

By the way, does anyone have data on the overall budget we spend globally to fight crime?

Should we map the budget spent (including for the judicial systems and then incarcerations) against the crime rates over time (see below for a sample), what would the behaviour suggest to us?

Are we winning?

Do you think it is a battle we can win from the police stations?  Then if not, where?

crime trends

crime trends

National Article 15: Is one choosing to work because one needs to eat?

Or does one choose to work because one wants to carve a career (to advance the public or private good) for oneself and for others?

National Article 14: What is the right answer?

Focussing on how one teaches or how one learns?  Can one exclude the other?  Which would lead the other within the school system?

When a student shows he has understood (by his grades) what the teacher has taught him, would that mean he is learning?

Would that mean should the teacher stop teaching (such as when the child leaves school), what would happen to its learning?

Should the student or the child lead the learning instead i.e. when the child seeks it out or is curious to learn (even before the teachers teaches), what would we call that?  Do we have a name for that?  Often we usually do not even go there, because we say we are straying away from the syllabus (the point, the agenda, the plan, the meeting).  Sounds familiar?

An adorably curious kittyyay its adorable, i l...

Image via Wikipedia

It has fascinated me to watch, that should I google for the word “curiosity”, there are two (well three) images that would typically return from the search.

The first is it shows images of cats and their curiosity almost leading the foregone proverb, ‘Curiosity killed the cat’.  I am not sure which one we see more of.  The image or the proverb in our head.

The other often shows pictures of children looking cheekily up the skirt of a woman.  I am not sure whether to frown or to smile with this one.

And the third shows rows of children standing in a straight line within buildings that houses institutions of learning, I mean education.

But I could not easily find any other image to illustrate that word.   Try it out yourself.  Do let us know what you see.

But images and suggestions aside, what would inspire a child to want to be curious to learn?
Because should the child be curious to learn (anything), is there anything that could stop the education decline?

I say inspires because this is different from feeling desperation, meaning should I not learn, the school and eventually the society would leave me behind.  But I do not want to be left behind.  So, I’ll do anything to be number one.  Even if it means having to study under the lights of the street!

We sometimes carry such thoughts into the workplaces, often leading to corruption, underhanded work tactics becoming a way of life and these in turn create a general sense of lethargy and impasse among workmates (because no one wants to be left behind)!  So the consequences of that desperation would often show up as a stalemate.

So what today is killing the willingness of the child to want to be curious to learn?  Where did it start?  The child or the home?

What would encourage it to turn it around for the child?  Is it the child or the adult?

What if what we thought was right is wrong?   Then again, learning is not about arriving at the destination (concluding something is right or wrong) but being willing to be part of a journey.

I have found these two resources inspiring in trying to understand the answers to this question.

  • One is a quaint little book on Toto Chan.  One of the few books in my adult years that I could not put down until I had finished it.  It is touted as a must-read for all educators.Totto Chan: The Little Girl At The Window is a memoir by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi about her childhood, mostly about her days as a student at a unique school called Tomoe Gakuen.  Tomoe is a school for ‘special children’, and Tomoe was taken there by her mother because she was expelled from her first school in the first grade itself, for being a distraction to the rest of the class.  Her mother realizes that what Totto-chan needs is a school where more freedom of expression is permitted.  So she takes Totto-chan to meet the headmaster of the new school, Mr. Kobayashi.  From that moment a friendship is formed between master and pupil.Totto Chan, the name by which Tetsuko was fondly called, took to Tomoe instantly. Which child would not – when the classrooms are made of old railroad cars that are no longer in use? Tomoe is run by an exceptional headmaster, Mr. Kobayashi, who had extensively studied the imparting of ‘knowledge’ to children, rather than the imparting of ‘education’.The book goes on to describe the times that Totto-chan has, the friends she makes, the lessons she learns, and the vibrant atmosphere that she imbibes.  All of these are presented to the reader through the eyes of a child. Thus the reader sees how the normal world is transformed into a beautiful, exciting place full of joy and enthusiasm.  The reader also sees in their role as adults, how Mr. Kobayashi introduces new activities to interest the pupils. One sees in Mr. Kobayashi a man who understands children and strives to develop their qualities of mind, body and heart. His concern for the physically handicapped and his emphasis on the equality of all children are remarkable. In the school, the children lead happy lives, unaware of the things going on in the world.  World War 2 has started, yet in this school, no signs of it are seen.  But one day, the school is bombed, and was never rebuilt, even though the headmaster claimed that he looked forward to building an even better school the next time round. It was never done and this ends Totto-chan’s years as a pupil at Tomoe Gakuen.Tomoe was criticised by many for not being a conventional kind of school. Children were encouraged to study whatever subjects they liked first, they were taken to ‘field kitchens’ and ‘farming lessons’ to learn the practical aspects of cooking food and farming, first hand. The headmaster personally saw to it that the meals of all the kids was nutritious and balanced.  The headmaster knew the children in and out, and the children were so comfortable with him that they fought with each other for a chance to get on to his lap and climb on his back!  The headmaster personally saw to it that no child developed complexes, and no child felt any different from the rest.  This and much more was special at Tomoe.  If you are always one for practical education, you would like this book, which is all about ’free teaching” and ‘practical learning’?It was Tomoe that brought out the best in Totto Chan, as it did in a lot of other children. It was Tomoe that made Totto Chan what she bacame – an eminent TV personality in Japan. Tomoe was indeed a special school, and Mr. Kobayashi was indeed a gifted headmaster.

    Sounds impossible? It might, but it was not. Such a school actually existed in Japan before it met a rather sad end. The famous TV personality of Japan, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, actually studied in Tomoe. The epitome of kindnes, love for children – Mr. Kobayashi – was really the headmsater of Tomoe.

  • The other must be this.  It is a publication by Dr Sandra Seagal called Human Dynamics: A New Framework for Understanding people and Realizing the Potential on Our Organizations presents a new body of work that identifies fundamental distinctions in people’s functioning — including distinctions in how people communicate, learn, problem-solving, exercise leadership, function on teams, become stressed, maintain wellness, and develop, personal, interpersonal and trans-personal.  The insights and tools that the book offers for enhancing the quality and efficiency of organizations are equally applicable in the context of family life. The book also indicates the significance of this new body for the fields of education, health care, and cross-cultural bridge-building.  The short of it.  She basically says that our personality distinctions (and our learning styles) are hard-wired at birth centred as either as physical, emotional or mental functioning.  In total there are nine distinct types of which five are dominant across the world.  Three in the western hemisphere an up to parts of Central Asia and two in the eastern hemisphere (and including Africa).  These distinctions play out differently in the ways we learn from and / or teach to others.

Human Dynamic Book

Love to hear your reactions to these publications!

National Article 13: Once it starts, it does not know how to stop!

Maybe somethings are best if we did not start them at all!

But the ball has been running since there were men (and women) – kind.


Hmm ….

National Article 12: Maybe the name ‘football’ is misleading

Striker Ilja Venäläinen (#10, in yellow) of Ku...

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Because one foot really cannot make a difference to the game till the team is willing to work as a team but more importantly works to defend for its nation.  Yet we all relish that one foot that kicks “the dream goal” to reality!  It is what glues us all to the set and the field, is it not? It is what inspires the “next Pele”.  It is because of that special moment that football clubs around the world hope to attract millions of dollar to its doors: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_missing_graph/4606501458/lightbox/

Heads of States are no exceptions either.  They play into the notion too.  They load promises of pomp and glory to the boys that bring the cup back home or scores the most hits into the opponent’s net.  We even have special awards just for the best player.  More often than not, it goes to the striker!  For that magic foot – ball.

Yet football cannot be won by strikers alone.  This is especially so when the defence is weak.  And it is not difficult to see that the quality of the defence can bring the best striker and even the team down.

Association football (soccer), Bloomington, In...

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What makes a team strong in its defence?  Is it the promise of rewards of winning?  That’s for the striker!  It is easy for a striker to connect a reward with a strike into the net.  The more strikes that are in the more are the rewards.  That’s easy to figure.

But what about the defence?  The defence does not strike in.  It defends or strikes a ball  out!  What moves one to fight for that?  What do you think?

What stops the defence from leaving the defence wide open?  Without  a strategy?  We can’t use rewards to motivate something we do not want.

So then what else will?

Hello World! The grass can be greener on your side.

One day my neighbor as he passed by my garden, noticed how the grass in my garden appeared greener than the ones in his garden.  The next day he approaches his gardener and asks, “Tell me my man, why is the grass in Sheila’s garden greener than the one in mine?”

In all humility, the gardener turned and faced his boss, and said, “That’s because, Sir, Sheila feeds her grass with fertilizers (food) that then waters (water) them to allow them to turn greener (health)”.

The boss, my neighbour, realized at once what he had to do.

He turns to his gardener, “Come on my man, let’s go to the nursery.  We need to get those fertilizers to feed the garden so that the grass on this side too will be green!”