Daylighting The Pipeline of Uselessness

Daylighting The Pipeline of Uselessness

In the work of restoring streams and creeks there is a thing called ‘daylighting’. It refers to restoring waterways that have been diverted underground through pipelines and culverts. The daylighting occurs when they can once again flow above ground as water ways.

So with that in mind I want to talk about how we might bust open the pipeline of uselessness that is our education and career pathways for young people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is time to call it out. For more than 20 years we have established a pipeline of uselessness through education and workplaces in Aotearoa.

We have been educating people with information that does not turn into skills and does not equip them for jobs, workplaces and the world.

We have created endless tiers of management, where people do not produce anything.

Ask the majority of secondary, tertiary students, and employers if they think their education is equipping people well for work and the world, and they will offer you a resounding NO.

And yet it continues, on and on.

It all began to really turn to custard around the end of the 20th century. As the new millenium dawned, some bright sparks in government decided they would jump on the neo-liberal machine and turn tertiary education into something that would make money… at any cost.

So to some extent, there were elements of this that were a good idea. Why not earn income from international students? And to do this one had to head higher up the rankings of universities internationally. Maybe that could be a good idea too.

However, as is often the way with government policies, it was a sledgehammer to crack a nut approach.

Around this time my own alma mata, AIT polytech, became AUT University, God Bless Them.

The transition showed just how myopically focused (and how much the same!) academics and bureaucrats can be. They made sure funding was all about research outputs and bums on seats, and sweet FA about quality teaching, or adapting curricula to fast changing world and employment markets.
Any sense of graduates gaining skills and mindsets for the new working world and fast emerging ‘gig’ economy were no where in sight.

And on their merry way they trundled through the 2000s.

Every year, tertiary education became less and less relevant to the market.

Every year more and more degrees and course were created.

Every year universities, polytechnics and private providers spread campuses up and down the country, offering a multitude of courses that competed with one another, with pipelines to jobs that no longer existed, at least not in the form they were being taught.

Every year more and more graduates were ‘qualified’ for specific roles that were diminishing.

Every year, the expectations of graduates rose, as they sought employment in so called ‘management’ roles because these attracted better salaries, and after all that was their due, after paying thousands and thousands in student fees. Why wouldn’t you?

It really came home to a group of us who were ex-industry professionals helping run a journalism programme that had become a degree at AUT when we noticed all the applicants for a media award for a ‘senior’ journalist were in their early to mid 20s.

The career path to someone being ‘senior’ and then on to management had grown much faster, so that people could follow the salary band, all with limited experience.

And so we also started to see more and more of the “Peter Principle” , the concept dreamed up in the late 1960s as a satirical idea about managers rising to the level of their incompetence. The principle fast turned from satire to a sad reality.

And so we started to create legions and legions of managers every where, from government, to corporations to small businesses, to not-for-profits.

Everyone was a manager of something.

And to boot, the title and the role, the job description, the CV, the ability to be a manager was based on some inept psychometrics, in job interviews, and employement processes run by HR professionals that measured only very narrow elements of human beings and their ability and potential.

Argggh. I have sat on many an interview panel when all the assessment criteria were irrelevant and quite frankly useless, bearing no relationship to the actual job to do. Someone would end up employed who did not fit the job and was simly good at writing CVs and application letters and gaining qualifications.

Anyone with a foreign name or diverse life experiences usually had their CV tossed to the bottom of the pile.

And so for several decades we created tiers and tiers of managers, predominantely white and middle class, inexperienced in life, emotional intelligence or empathy, but increasingly skilled at justifying their existence by creating meaningless work; restructures, new strategies, staff reshuffles, KPIs, reports, blah, blah blah.

This is nothing new of course in a colonial society, but it reached epidemic proportions over the past 30 years.

And now here was the further twist. These legions of inexperienced ‘managers’ were now making government and corporate policy, to employ more and more people like themselves, who had no experience at the ‘coal face’ but could write reports, and invent KPIs and measurements that all looked quite good on paper, and might get an A as an essay or uni assignement, or as a bright new shiny output of policy or strategy, but did not turn into the delivery of any useful services for the public, or the economy. These outputs never turned into any specific actions or changes.

And so on and one the roller coast trundled throughout the first decade and a half of the 21st century.

Every year, local and central government grew another floor of managers, more and more tiers of management. I believe Auckland Council has six or seven tiers of management today.

My goodness, what does Tier 4 do as opposed to Tier 7?

And in the hallowed halls of the council, people talk rather reverently about some on a higher tier as if they are a demi-God. Well I guess they wield more power and definitely bigger budgets and the ability to hire and fire.

So we wonder why the public service is in disarray and the corporate world terrifyingly out of touch with their customers and the public.

For a start they are increasingly faceless, lost way behind an automated customer service line. Their names, and their direct line phone numbers are never to be found. To face up and take responsibility is no where on the horizon, not even as a KPI.

I have painted a desolutary picture here, and despite this I remain an optimist that these horrendous can change.

There are increasing glimmers that there is more and more awareness that these systems are broken. We hear more and more talk about adaptive leadership, empathy, authenticity, vulnerability and human centred organisations.

Here and there the talk turns to reality.

It does take a mindshift, not new skill sets. And there is a vast different.

Our individualised education and employment systems focus on gaining tools an and skill, without the wisdom of where and how to use them.

This requires a mindset shift, to being more human centres, and more focused on the collective than the individual. It requires a focus on how can the team as a whole succeed, and on measuring a wider range of successes.

We really have to redefine success, and we see glimmers in this around the new approaches being sought by government to measure more widely that GDP and solely economic metrics.

The idea that wellbeing and social impacts are equally important.

After all if we go to the origin of the word ‘economy’ it comes from the same root as ‘ecology’ which comes from the Greek word and concept EKOS, which is family.

So the whole point originally, was economics as a system for a family.

So paying attention to the collective, the whole, the organism of an organisation is the new ‘black.’

But we are only taking baby steps towards realising this after entrenched individualism and colonialism for hundreds of years.

The irony and the opportunity and the potential turn of the cycle is to wake up to the fact that all along there have been systems existing in this country that are perfectly suited as a model for a collective way of working, of honouring difference, and recognising the enormous potential when one or I shoud say when ‘we’ fully embrace the innovation, the inclusion and the ingenuity of working in a collective way to achieve far greater results, outcomes and outputs than we can achieve alone.

Aod so this most obvious of systems is Te Ao Māori.

Hello! It is such an absolute no brainer, and yet legislation, ideology, religion, and mainstream culture has repeatedly ignored, dismantled and totally supressed Te Ao Māori systems.

It is a devestatingly crying shame. For what better opportunity does Aotearoa have than to full embrace an ancient and timeless culture as it’s mainstream operating system.
How beautiful, elegant, smart and successful this can be.

Our niche on the world stage, our uniqueness, has always been based on Te Ao Māori, it has just never been acknowledged.

Our history of punching above our weight, of kiwi innovation has always had Te Ao Māori central to it as much as the zeal of European pioneers. And I romantically like to think that on a good day historically, there were no degrees of seperation between innovative pioneesr and an entrepreneurial tangata whenua.

Hello people, wake up. We have this most elegant and smart opportunity right in front of us. The rest of the world sees it and we don’t. We are admired and sought after around the globe and yet we still can’t see it, mumbling into our beards monosyllabically in the cultural cringe anti-tall poppy sentiments giving ‘all credit to the oppposition.’ What?????? How crazy is this false humility?
Really it is just passive-aggressive bullshit.

We can rise up the brilliant opportunities of the tikanga of Te Ao Māori as this main operating systems for our motu and ourselves.

We are gorgeous. And this place is gorgeous.

We can collectively embrace system changes that enable us to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Fundamentally, the changes that will enable more equity for more people to be fulfilled in their life and work will come from a place of love.

The concepts of aroha, of whakawhanaungatanga , of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga are all about love, a universal love connecting, people, planet and the universe.

Love is about shining light, on ourselves, and on others, seeking the light, seeking the daylight.

So daylighting our selves and our places in love is something that we can all commit to, it is a value beyond question, beyond debate, it is presencing our potential as human beings to evolve in love.

Aue te aroha i ahau, aue
Aue e te iwi e.
E te iwi Māori puritia kia mau,
Utaina ki runga i te waka o te ora
Ka hoe ai ki te tauranga.

Speaking About Spoke, My Longest Ever Post!

Exactly 14 years ago I quit my job and I have never worked again.

I was in a management role. I woke up one day and realised what I was doing was a complete waste of time.

It was driving me crazy. The work didn’t produce things, anything. I shuffled paper, went to pointless meetings, managed staff who didn’t need it, wrote meaningless reports, strategies and KPIs all of which produced next to nothing.

When I veered into work that actually produced something, like writing stories, having conversations and mentoring people, I was told off. Managers didn’t do anything ‘tactical’. They did ‘strategy’. They went out for expensive lunches with key ‘stakeholders.’ Argggggghhhhhhhhh.   It was all killing my soul.

My partner recalls one morning around this time when the endless meaninglessness of management got to me. I ran through the house, biffing my cellphone onto the couch, ripped off my suit jacket, pulled off my tie (I grappled with that beause the knot got tight) ripped off my white shirt popping all the buttons. I pulled off my suit pants and sat in my underwear and knotted tie on the coach, yelling.

That was it. My days as a ‘suit’ were over.

The day I quit I had no idea where my next dollar would come from. I still had a young family and a large mortgage and I was the main bread winner.

I called up a friend who was a brand and marketing expert and asked him to meet with me so I could set myself up in my own business.

We arranged to meet at a new French café in Kingsland that made wonderful galettes, a buckwheat pancake with yum fillings like my favourite ratatouille.

Unbeknownst to me, my friend had been in an altercation and was suffering a concussion. He never showed up. What was I going to do?

This café also served a wonderful dry cider in teacups, a tradition from some region of France I guess. I ordered some and a galette. They were delicious. It was a cold clear late autumn Auckland day. The sky was dark blue, and on the brick wall in the café’s courtyard, a bougainvillea was laden with dark pink flowers that looked beautiful against the sky.

So I thought, there was nothing to it, I would simply dream up my own brand and business plan.

I’d like to say I wrote the whole thing on the back of a paper napkin, but somehow I think I probably had a note book.

I jotted down a couple of sentences about what I considered I had to offer the world, and the word Spoke jumped up at me.

Spoke. It had two great meanings for me; the spoken word, and the spokes of a wheel that connects the hub to the rim.

That was what I was all about, great communication that connects.

Simple. And so Spoke was born and a 14 year journey into business began.

This journey has taken me to every corner of the world.

I have made ginormous mistakes and had enormous successes.

I have paid business coaches $1000 an hour, and I have earned $1000 an hour. I have earned nothing giving my time to not for profits sometimes for weeks, and I have earned $1 an hour.

I have sat in horror looking at bank accounts sitting on zero with no idea when any cash was coming in, and I have seen my bank balance hit $900,000, albeit briefly, not quite the $1mill.

Why I am telling you all this? Well it is part of my story, and I believe we all have stories to share, that can contribute to others, sometimes in ways that can be unexpected and unintentional. Sometimes we share something we think is useful, and it was actually something else that we talked about that struck a chord with someone.

The exercise of being visible, sharing, showing up, expressing yourself is really the trick.

What is Work?

After my 14 years ‘out of work’ what I really mean by ‘work’?

A good many of us have a very unhealthy attitude to work. We end up thinking that being busy, and ‘doing’ lots of stuff equates to value.

Working is a form of belonging, the most basic of human needs. If we are working we belong some where and to sombody or some people/family. We believe work gives us a worth.

But what is the nature of work?

Work as an employee is soul-less.

Work serving others and giving of yourself is soul-full.

At the beginning of this story I said I have not worked for 14 years. I mean working as an employee. I have come close several times in extended contracts, and then felt my soul withering as I became an employee widget in a system of useless management, and I bailed.

You see we are on the edge of perhaps the biggest revolution in work in the history of humanity.

We have created so many meaningless activities that get described as work, and earn an income. These roles are shortly going to completely disappear.

Traditional professions such as lawyers, accountants, management, and even some roles in medicine and engineering and marketing are no longer needed. We can sort most of this with an algorithm or AI.

It is people, mostly men, in these professions that have ruled the first world for the last several hundred years. But it’s over.

I’m sorry guys, we don’t need you, well at least not in these roles that you perform today.

It could get ugly for a little while. These, predominantly men, many of them middle aged and generally well meaning, much like me, will desperately cling to power and wealth that they have accumulated from these ‘old school’ ways of working, overseeing how others perform useless work.

And I believe we will need a great deal of compassion and kindness to prevail as the legions of these men struggle.

Sadly there will be enormous collateral damage for all those people that these men in power have employed in meaningless work, especially managers and professionals, and the staff that they employ to perpetuate unneeded systems.

So what do we do?

It is time to get very ordinary, and definitely not extraordinary.

The simple things, the little things will be the things that prevail.

We can reinvent community and village economies, trading, bartering and selling and buying things from one another.

We can make things, grow our own food, produce our own power, create our own entertainment.

We can be a nation and a planet of small businesses, family businesses based on community values.

A few years ago I angered an old socialist friend of mine.

I said the best thing I could teach my children was how to write an invoice.

He muttered into his beard that this was an awful capitalist idea.

The thing is, today all my children have written an invoice to charge someone for their services. It is a key to self sufficiency to understand the value you offer, and the exchange you can make for it.

The future of humanity is about building an entrepreneurial spirit in every living being, that is self expressed, conscious of their gifts that they offer the world, and in love with the idea of serving others through what they can provide, and exchanging that for a range of currencies from money, goods and services, to belonging.

The Future is Indigenous

For the new ways of working, that are really a new twist on some ancient ways of working, we can look to a neglected and marginalised part of the world, the world of indigenous people.

Indigenous people have been smashed by the first world for the last few hundred years. But today the very values, practices, and ways of working from these cultures is exactly what is missing and what is needed in the first world systems of work that are failing, and that will soon be obsolete.

Here in my homeland of Aotearoa (New Zealand) the indigenous people, Māori, and close relatives from across the islands of the South Pacific/Oceania, hold the key to the future.

For many it doesn’t look like it right now, because Māori and Pasifika have been excluded, their spirit, their wairua, their joy and their culture crushed by the systems of government and commerce. The cult of the individual and the dysfunction of honouring intellect way above body, heart and spirit has prevailed.

It has been my utmost privilege to work and be accepted to work with Māori and Pasific peoples, and learn the depth and breadth of these beautiful and exquisite cultures, a way of working, a way of loving and a way of living that offers so very much in a time bereft of love and compassion.

The craziest thing in the world is that so many people in the mainstream world cannot see it.

They misunderstand that any dysfunction they see in the Māori and Pasific world is a reflection on their own.

The systems and beliefs of Mãori run deep and hold some significant opportunities for surviving and thriving the fast changing world.

The structures of the culture are universal, and if we look at every culture on the planet back far enough in time, we all share the same beliefs around how the universe is shaped, our place in it, and how we can go about balancing body, mind and spirit.

The Weave

It is these experiences, observations and insights that led me to write The Weave, The Surprising Unity in Difference.

The exercise of writing and teaching The Weave is not about me. It is not my idea, and it is not my expertise. I am the conduit for a way of thinking and being that is humanity’s oldest technology.

Weaving was the first activity that we undertook to shape and make sense of our environment and universe.

To this day, weaving as a practical activity is fundamental to the materials all around us that we take for granted that are absolute staples in the way our shaped environment supports us, from our clothing to our buildings, to the fabrics from many materials that we interact with every day.

To weave is also a powerful metaphor that we also engage with almost daily, as we talk about the ‘fabric’ of the universe, the

‘tapestry’ of life, the ‘threads’ that come together in our lives. It is the conversations, ideas, thoughts, communication and endless day to day activities and interactions. It is our now daily engagement with the World Wide Web, the most omnipresent ubiquitous and infinite weaving humans have created.

It is no wonder that the very invention of the computer came from weaving technology in the 19th century!

To weave is both the most simple of exercises and models, but also a matrix of endless complexity, that we may never full comprehend.

It is a model and a metaphor for our very existence and offers a form for navigating our lives and our worlds.

To weave is to find connection points through threads of things that can occur as disparate or isolated.

In a simple form, individual threads alone are linear. But once they are crossed they immediately start to create a greater whole, a fabric.

The trick of the twists and turns of a weave is the give and the take, that they are held in a tension of movement and moment. Dealing with difference in human beings is the same, there are times when it will be uncomfortable to intersect with someone with a different world view, in order to realise our common humanity. As Hannah Arendt said, it will take imagining another’s world, not having pity, sympathy or empathy for it, and understanding that it may always be different from your own world view.

The warp and the weft of any woven form intersect multiple times in multiple ways. In the spaces in between a picture, a pattern forms and becomes apparent.

Many cultures of the world hold sacred rituals around the practice of weaving for good reason, to honour the ‘magic’ of the creation of the woven form, and understanding that the DNA of the practice of weaving lies in ancient times, and in forms that extend with a thread into the unseen universe, acknowledging energies and connections that are often not obvious to us in a sentient and rational world view.

The interesting fact is that although the practice of weaving threads its way into metaphor and matters that are intangible, it at the same time provides very tangible materials that support us in a very practical way in daily life.

In Māori culture, the harakeke, the flax bush is most often used for weaving. It is honoured as a very important plant because it provides a material to sustain us, not to mention the use of its seeds and juices as a rongoā, a medicine.

The leaves of the flax bush are immensely strong, and are also used to create a story for sustaining planet and people. The story underpins an importance practice to honour and sustain the harakeke, and the ecosystems of environment and people it supports.

Weavers are taught that the leaves of the harakeke form a family, and that the young shoots should never be picked, and should be protected by older shoots, leaving only the most mature leaves to be harvested.

This is a metaphor for family life, where all members across generations are interconnected, and focus on protecting the young in all their interacting and intersecting worlds.

Well, I now have produced the equivalent of an essay. What is joyful for me about this, I have written this with absolute freedom; the opportunity to express myself as I choose, the time to do it, and the inclination to bother.

As I close in on the age of 60, my life delights me. I am honoured, privileged and proud to lead a life where my work is my bliss. I feel myself growing into a sense of wisdom, excited and curious as the next 20+ years unfold.

E koekoe te tui, e ketekere te kākā, e kūkū te kukupa, It Takes Every Kind of People.

Mauri Ora.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Bad About Things Being ‘All Good’?

There’s three popular phrases I hear and also use frequently.

“All Good”, “Sweet As”, and “It is What It Is.”

In the right context they are harmless and sometimes gentle phrases that are about accepting things as they are right now.

If someone says” How’s everything going?” The reply can be ‘all good’, or ‘sweet as.’

 

It is all about the context. Sometimes these phrases are exactly the right thing to say and name what is really going on. They can put people at ease, create connection, unity, and equilibrium.

But how often does this actually gloss over things that are not quite right?

Are we sweeping things under the carpet when we declare things are ‘all good’ or ‘sweet as’?

But how often have these expressions crossed over to being an automatic response to everything whether it is good or bad, running smoothly, in conflict, or challenging?

Is it resignation, or is it acceptance when someone uses the phrase ‘it is what it is’ ?

I think it can be both. But it is ‘good’ to know the difference.

I was watching a Netflix series early this morning, and it suddenly came to me how much my years of consumption of television, feature films and video has deeply influenced my perception of time.

Everything is edited so there is momentum with very little down time. We have an expectation that ‘something is going to happen’. Film makes talk about creating a beat to ensure momentum and rhythm, as we do in poetry and music. In itself that is not a bad thing. But most of what we consume day to day via visual media sets a pace, that is quite at odds with how time really passes in most of our lives.

How boring would a film or Netflix series be if it included people circling round and round to find a parking spot, or waiting on hold for a call centre to respond to a request, or waiting in a queue to be served.

Of course we edit all this stuff out of the stories for media.

So really that’s fine if we know that is what is going on. But I have succumbed often to the hyper-reality that time will pass in my own life the same way it does in these fictions.

I am teaching myself now the art of doing nothing, of having ‘downtime’ be as valuable as active time.   I look to have this more in balance the same way it is used in resistance training in physical workouts.

In The Weave, we focus a lot on the intersections we come across in our interactions; the knots, the twists and turns that make up a weaving. It is the intersections where everything is held together. But it is held in a tension; too tight and the fabric is constricted and uneven. Too loose and it is full of holes and not held together.

Our approach to life can be much the same, through dark and light, through good and bad. The times of stillness and inaction inform and fuel the action, while the times of action fulfil through momentum.

It is much the same with the very essence of our lives, our breathe. We breathe in to energise, and we breathe out to relax. We would not live without both.

Our self observation and acceptance of the twists and turns is both the art and the science of living.

So when we are at peace with the yin and the yang of the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the stillness and the movement, we can say that things are All Good, Sweet As, and It is What It Is.