Share, Exchange, (Re)Create

One of my colleagues at the University of Canberra, Peter Copeman, has introduced me to the concept of Ganma from the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land.

Ganma:

describes a situation in which a river of water from the sea (western knowledge) and a river of water from the land (Aboriginal knowledge) mutually engulf each other upon flowing into a common lagoon and becoming one. (Timothy Pyrch & Maria Castillo, 2001:380)

As the waters mix, “foam is created at the surface so that lines of foam mark the process of Ganma … the foam represents a new kind of knowledge”. In this sense of the word, “Ganma is a place where knowledge is (re)created”. (Timothy Pyrch & Maria Castillo, 2001:380)

Dr Marika, a Yolngu leader has observed:

Water like knowledge has memory. When two different waters meet to create Ganma, they diffuse into each other, but they do not forget who they are or where they come from.

In October, I am participating in a Knowledge Exchange conference in Dublin (HPX 2017). To my delight Waterville is to the south west of the conference venue … and the National Acquatic Centre is not far away. The hosts, the Institute of Sport, have since 2013 sought to:

to create and stage compelling knowledge exchange events in order to create a debate on current concepts of world class practice while building relationships in order to enhance multi-disciplinary teamwork in the field.

Conference presenters in 2017 are coming from all over the world to exchange and share.

Two posts this week have connected Arnhem Land and Dublin for me.

The first is by Leigh Blackall. He discussed a decision to install a new content management system (CMS) in his university. His post starts with this observation:

the process for selecting that new CMS was appalling, and the process for implementing it has been just as disappointing. Through the now typical pseudo-consultation events of cafe-style workshops where people with varying levels of ability and experience gather around butchers’ paper, getting a “facilitated” 5 minutes in a noisy room to try to channel through a scribe any competing idea into coherent hand written sentences, that are then randomly selected to create single keywords to stick on a wall, all in some strange gesture toward crowd sourced, sticky-note wisdom.

He concludes with this summary:

What I’ve witnessed in the new CMS is a massive refocusing on a single point, at the expense of all other concerns to do with teaching and learning. Many new people have been employed centrally, overwhelmingly configured to develop that managerial dashboard. This redistribution of resources ultimately comes at the expense of teachers badly in need of employment certainty and more agency in what they do – the time to understand what they’re doing.

All of which brought me to reflect on how organisations can be like water with a sensitivity to difference and an understanding of what can be co- and re-created.

The second post was titled The New Class of Digital Leaders. In it Pierre Peladeau, Mathias Herzog, and Olaf Acker discuss how organisations are addressing digital transformation. They point out:

When it comes to implementing a digital strategy, the new class of chief digital officers (CDOs) often encounter several key obstacles upon assuming their role: ad hoc digital initiatives spread throughout a large organization, lacking central oversight; a traditional culture that resists change; a gap in the talent required; and legacy systems and structures that threaten to derail their ambitions.

The Ganma concept has a great deal to offer these organisations as an epistemological foundation for engaging with the meeting of different experiences. It provides a fascinating opportunity for an ecological balance in leading and following in organisations that can aspire to share, exchange and re-create.

Photo Credits

Rock painting Near 7 Spears (C Steele, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Desmond, Arnhem Land (Rusty Stewart, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There is no wealth but life: a sense of perspective for sport

There are some benefits of being trapped by volcanic ash in the North of England. I have been hoping to visit John Ruskin‘s home, Brantwood, at Coniston for some time. I manged to do so this week courtesy of Eyjafjallajokull.

Wandering around the house and grounds on a delightful Spring day gave me lots of opportunity to think about Ruskin’s work and how a visionary finds space in a culture to transform thinking and action.

I was struck by his affirmation in Unto This Last (1860) that there is no wealth but life:

Life including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over lives of others.

In Pre-Raphaelitism (1851) he makes some fascinating observations about work. Ruskin suggests that in order that people may be happy in their work:

  • They must be fit for it.
  • They must not do too much of it.
  • They must have a sense of success in it.

I liked his proposition that this sense of success is:

not a doubtful sense, such as needs some testimony of other people for its confirmation, but a sure sense, or rather knowledge, that so much work has been done well, and fruitfully done, whatever the world may say or think about it.

He adds that “in order that a man may be happy, it is necessary that he should not only be capable of his work, but a good judge of his work”.

In Volume 2 of The Stones of Venice he has some fascinating things to say about craft and skill. I am off to try to find these in context in the original. In doing so I am reminded how visionary nineteenth century writers were. Marcel Proust, for example, has been identified as a forerunner of neuroscience.

Ruskin and Proust would make fascinating primary source material for coaches and coach educators.

Photo Credits

Lakes 2006

Brantwood (2)

NESC Forum 2009: Graeme Joy

Steve Lawrence introduced Graeme Joy. Graeme was the joint leader and navigator of the International North Pole Expedition where he became the first and only Australian to ski to the North Pole..

Joy_Graeme

Photo Source

In this presentation he discussed his North Pole adventure and explored how to be successful as a team of eight people making it to the North Pole.

The journey to the North Pole started at Cape Columbia. The straight line distance from there to the North Pole is 860kms. The team travelled over 1100kms to get to the Pole as a result of sea ice movement. Temperatures at the start of the expedition were -60 degrees.

Graeme presented some of Jim Collins‘ ideas about sustained performance. These included setting a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) for the Pole expedition. Graeme cautioned about idea assassins. The more vocal of whom appear to know least and mobilise failure information.

Graeme discussed personality types and team membership. He identified: drivers, amiables, expressives, and analyticals. He pointed out that we are attracted to people with whom we get along but it is difficult to build a team around this attraction. He considered how directed responsiveness and directed assertiveness were components of the team environment. Graeme pointed out that teams needed variety of preferred styles to enable agility in decision making.

The three members of the leadership team were: a driver/driver; an analytical;  and an expressive/driver. Three leaders were chosen to avoid one leader’s burnout over a two month period.  in the team. It was decided also not to change leaders regularly in a democratic way to avoid constant change in the team’s atmosphere. A team of three provides a sustainable style.

Graeme noted that Level 5 leaders: were ambitious for the team; sustained results; committed to whatever it takes; and accept full responsibility. The team that went to the Pole was selected over a seven month period.  The three expedition founders people made the first team choices and thereafter the team was built with ongoing inclusion in decision making.

The remaining five members of the team were: expressive; analytical/driver; analytical; amiable/analytical; analytical/driver. Graeme believes that “we put the right people on our bus”. Team members had the same view of the same expedition.

Graeme provided details of how the team trained for two years to get ready for the expedition. He provided examples of training in rough ice (there were 2500 pressure ridges between the start and end points of the expedition which equated to climbing Everest from sea level) and the need to minimise all weight carried or dragged (including an eight-man tent weighing 1.5 kgs per person load). The team slept out of the tent in training to prepare for damage to the tent in the expedition. Graeme discussed deliberate practice (Anders Ericsson) in this context.

The aim of training was to address the brutal facts of the journey: recognise the real truth; acknowledge a step by step approach; and to confront real. The Ericsson-inspired approach to training meant that the team  spent a great deal of time on ridge ice. They used immediate feedback and continuous improvement. Graeme observed that “rough ice not pleasant but we got through it”. On the ice you can move backwards by going forwards. But can you move forwards too.

Graeme then turned his attention to making mistakes in training. He suggested these mistakes occurred either because the individual does not know enough or conversely you know it so well you do not pay attention to detail. An example of the latter is a frostbite blister one of the team members developed in training.

The whole aim of the preparation was to deliver the ability to work for set hours per day activity and measured rest intervals. During the expedition the team saw 36 sets of bear tracks. Given the polar bear is one of most effective hunting animals the team sought Inyuit advice about how to manage bear attacks. Interestingly, the analyticals in the team researched this part of the team’s needs.  (This was also the case in learning how to ‘read’ the ice.)

The expedition did receive regular deliveries of resources by plane. Ice splitting example. Each plane drop costs $45,000 and therefore required some skilled people at the home base to ensure all materials were packed for each drop. The provisions were resourced, packed and shipped by an analytical type.

Medical tests were conducted throughout the trip. Graeme shared some images of the frostbite dangers in the trip and the need when necessary to have whole body washes with medicated soap.

Graeme gave some examples of what if training that proved valuable particularly for wayfinding with a sextant when GPS systems froze.

Within the expedition there were opportunities to resolve conflict and Graeme gave an example of an Amiable and Driver interaction over nutrition. He noted that during conflict individuals revert to their strongest personal style. Other team members defused this conflict by addressing the team’s agreed goal and then discussed what (if anything) had changed. The problem was resolved by communication.

Graeme then discussed the role courage plays in forging a team. He noted that the team increased its workload to 12 hrs per day for 20 days. This involved moderate risk taking and a chess game with contours and fissures in the ice. The terrain bred a culture of discipline in thought and action. Fissures in the ice require teams to work together to advance on the ice.

The North Pole goal was achieved whilst supporting a team member who had badly frostbitten toes and a frostbitten heel. The a team removed responsibilities from injured team mate. “We reduced the weight he had to carry because we could not tow him!” The injured team mate still has to decide to make it happen. One foot in front of the other for 20 hours. He was not allocated new roles other than the role to get to the Pole. (There were only two moments of doubt on the expedition: these injuries, and the step up from 11 to 12 hours per day.)

Key characteristics of this experience included:

  • Accountability and responsibility
  • Assessment of  progress
  • Seeking the real truth
  • Solving disagreements and conflicts immediately
  • Understanding differences
  • Embrace and nurture winners
  • Commitment to making the team great