Friday, 9 January 2009

Communicating philosophies

Imagine my surprise, three days into my new philosophy when I was confronted with this statement. Once I’d stopped thinking about the issues of working in a room filled with balloons (intolerable squeaking for example), I managed to regain enough composure to be taken aback. What the heck was he talking about? Balloons?

It turned out that he’d read the website that I’d recommended, and from the whole online book content, he’d come away with the one, slightly tongue in cheek, suggestion that you could fill a room with balloons to celebrate achieving a happy work place. What I was most shocked about, was how easy it was for a wide-ranging principle to be reduced to, and judged by, one tiny component. It’s like judging the career of a well respected Shakespearean actor by his one night of passion with a transgender lap dancer. Ok, that would be pretty big news, but you get my point.

I got to thinking how this happened, and I came to the conclusion that people like, or even need, to have something definable to latch on to. If you don’t provide them with something, then they’ll go looking for something themselves, and it’s quite possible that it’ll work against you. I decided to write a set of principles that defined the philosophy. I figured that if I put that in front of people, it’d be much harder to miss the point of what we were trying to achieve.

As with all my ideas, I roped in my trusted team mates (and even the MD) and got general approval that the list I’d created (I’m calling it our “manifesto”) was worth a go. It certainly wasn’t a “monkey chucks a stick” moment, but at least the questions everyone asked were answered, and the general mood was positive.

In my next post, I’ll publish the manifesto. We haven’t put it forward to the rest of the company yet so there’ll be more to update you with when I’ve seen the whites of their eyes. Until then, I still recommend the website for inspiration, but watch out that the balloons don’t… err… deflate you. Sorry, that’s the best I’ve got.


  1. With regards to people latching on to something definable I think that philosophy is definitely true. To enhance that further it can be what people feel they can relate to and perhaps understand the most that sticks in the mind. Another case of something similar (loosley I guess)

    but there was A psychological study that offered an interesting lesson in “false consensus.”

    The research involved dividing into two groups; members of each were asked to read an essay about Rasputin, and then asked to evaluate their feelings about him. One group was given an essay that noted Rasputin’s correct birthday. The other was given the identical essay, but the date of his birthday was changed — to be the same day as that of the reader.

    The latter (same birthday) group evaluated Rasputin notably more favorably than the control group did.

    Mark R. Leary cites this research in The Curse of The Self, noting that if our opinions can be affected by such a “minor, egocentric matter,” it should be no surprise that “factors even more intimately related to our views of ourselves also influence our judgments of other people.”