Wittgenstein Jnr by Lars Iyer isn’t Sophie’s World 2. Or is it?

October 22, 2014

Wittgenstein jnrBook Review

It is quite appropriate that I obtained a copy of Wittgenstein Jnr under the mistaken impression that the book is a follow-up to Jostein Gaarder’s classic Sophie’s World. It isn’t. Written by that Norwegian philosopher. But by the English one with a Norwegian name. Who writes campus philosophy books among which Dogma is my favourite.

My false premise

My false premise was at least in keeping with one of the themes both of Sophie’s World and Wittgenstein Jnr: the nature of reality (of course). Gaardner charms us into an overview of Western philosophy through a story of young Sophie and her journey of discovery through a world of the imagination. Iyer draws us into the world of undergraduate Peters, and his journey of discovery through a world of the imagination, set in the context of the simulacrum Cambridge (about as real as the Oxford in the Morse stories, which come to think of it is very real for a generation of admirers of the TV versions of the stories of Colin Dexter).

Wittgenstein Mark 2?

The central character of Wittgenstein Jnr is a philosophy lecturer who is referred to by his students as a latter-day Wittgenstein. This Wittgenstein Mark 2 indeed resembles the character portrayed by Monk in his biography of Ludwig the first.

The obsessive search for philosophic closure through symbolic logic or its destruction is here. The larger than life student characters of earlier work are here, but reworked away from hapless but cheerful inhabitants of a philosophic underworld to an equally hapless and cheerful bunch of privileged inhabitants of Camalot / Cambridge.

Ludwig is here, although Ludwig the second is even more clinically depressed and doomed than Ludwig the first

Highly readable in a creative slippery literary way

There is much to enjoy about the book. It is highly readable, and stylistically creative in a subtle slippery literary way. Lyer has honed his prose into a tight personal style. It works, like many works of art, by concealing the labour that goes into final text. when I tried extracting an example, it became clear to me just how crafty the writing is.

Crafty writing

Here’s an example chosen selected almost at randomm, a scene in which EDE, one of students announces his split with his girlfriend Phaedra. Lyer sets the scene in two one-line paragraphs. It might have been four or five lines of poetry.

Saturday Night. Ede texts. You up? I split with Fee.

Ede, in the communal kitchen, emptying a tub of mushrooms onto the counter.

Readable?

A cautious endorsement. I enjoyed it. When I tried explaining it to a friend, my description left him unconvinced. Which suggests the test might follow a visit to one of those old fashioned pre-Amazon  book vendors,  and a quick scan of the book’s contents.


Symbolic leadership and the significance of the discovery of the Sulawesi cave paintings

October 19, 2014

The discovery of the cave paintings in a remote region of Indonesia seems likely to change our understanding the origins of artistic creativity

According to a BBC report [October 8th, 2014]

Australian and Indonesian scientists have dated layers of stalactite-like growths that have formed over coloured outlines of human hands.

Early artists made them by carefully blowing paint around hands that were pressed tightly against the cave walls and ceilings. The oldest is at least 40,000 years old. There are also human figures, and pictures of wild hoofed animals that are found only on the island.

Art and the ability to think of abstract concepts is what distinguishes our species from other animals – capabilities that also led us to use fire, develop the wheel and come up with the other technologies that have made our kind so successful.

The dating of the art in Sulawesi will mean that ideas about when and where this pivotal moment in our evolution occurred will now have to be revised.

The co-creation of art and culture

Symbolic representation through art seems to have been around as long as the formation of early cultures. It is not unreasonable to develop the [‘social constructionist’] view that culture and symbolic communication co-evolved.

New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik picks up on a related theory, that creative art of the type found in cave paintings was the consequence of a feminization of early cultures: Ape-woman started creating art and the social skills of cooperation while Ape-man developed hunting and gathering skills with greater emphasis on competition and conflict. It occured to me that the artistic Ape-woman was herself engaging in a competitive survival tactic for winning kudos through her displays of creativity.]

Gopnik is quick to concede that any theory of the origins of art needs to come with as health warning.

The fallacy of the single cause of culture does not become less fallacious when it’s set farther back in time. Symbolic communication, even in its higher form as art, is always a tide ebbing and flowing, rather than an event that just arrives.

The capacity to communicate symbolically

These ideas suggest that the capacity to communicate in symbols is an ancient skill that contributed to the survival and success of our species.

It remains vital as there is a need for more visionary leadership to help us protect our world from the unintended consequences of our technological interventions.


Argentinean men’s national soccer team: a leadership success story to copy

October 16, 2014

Carolina MayleCarolina Mayle

Having Lionel Messi, the best player in the world in a team may bring dilemmas of leadership or at least dilemmas of ego. But not with Sabella as the coach. As a non-playing leader he encouraged others including Messi to share leadership responsibilities. The story suggests something beyond the sporting arena

Lionel Messi was not born as a leader. But “he was something special,’ recalls Vecchio, Messi’s second coach at Club Atlético Newell’s Old Boys, an Argentine sports club based in Rosario, Santa Fe.

Sabella’s distributed leadership approach

Sabella is not the typical football coach. He is a conservative, analytical and detail-oriented individual. He fines young football players for breaking rules. Troublesome stars are dropped, including veterans he believes may not fit his strategy. Sabella transformed leadership dilemmas into a team strength, based on what is known as a distributed leadership scheme.

Messi and Mascherano

As part of a team, Messi needed emotional support and for that he would give back reciprocal support to the team with the promise of scoring a goal anytime. But still, the teams also needed an emotional leader. For that, Sabella summoned Mascherano. Both, Messi and Mascherano, can be taken as charismatic leaders, but with different approaches.

Attributional and emotional aspects of leadership

According to Jayakody (2008) a leader may be assessed for attributional factors or emotional ones:

Leader extraordinariness, the attributional approach – refers to the follower’s belief that the leader is beyond any ordinary person in many, if not all aspects of human attributions.

The emotional approach refers to the follower’s belief that the leader is an ideal representation of whom the follower expects the leader to be. Mascherano was even called “the captain without the [arm]band”

How this distributed leadership worked in the field

In the FIFA World Cup 2014 Semi-final against The Netherlands in Sao Paulo, it was goalless after extra time. The game went to penalties. If Argentina wins, it will be a place in the final for the first time in 24 years.

Mascherano was captured on camera speaking to goalkeeper Romero. ‘Today you’ll make yourself a hero’,he said. And the stopper did. Mascherano;s words inspired Romero in saving two penalties, as his side ran out 4­2 winners.

Messi lead from a different perspective in the same situation. He was the first to kick the penalty that ended in a goal.

Beyond football

Learning about distributed leadership should be part of any managing career in order to participate in teamwork. The Argentinean football team highlights developing a strategy to enhance each participant’s capability to commit to the team’s goals.
Their success of the field has changed my way of thinking about distributed leadership, influencing me to deal with dilemmas and going beyond the ‘normal’ assumptions (e.g. of the ‘one leader of a team) not only in my work life, but also in my personal life.

References

Drayton, J. (2014) Mascherano tells Romero ‘you’ll make yourself a hero’ before Argentina’s shootout win over Holland

Jayakody, J. A. S. K. (2008) ‘Charisma as a cognitive affective phenomenon: a follower-centric approach’,. Management Decision, 46, 832-845.

The author

Carolina is a Senior Purchasing Manager at an international consumer goods FMCG, completing a global part time MBA


The Power and the Glory in the beautiful game and beyond: The Red Bull Leipzig case

October 15, 2014

Paul Hinks and Tudor Rickards

Red Bull Leipzig is one example of the way financial power is creating sporting success in football. In Germany, there has been a reaction from opposing fans on ethical and cultural grounds

Germany’s framework for sustainable football success centres on a “50+1” model where 51% of each club must be owned by its members – to date the model appears to have worked well in serving Germany’s football community.

The fans as important stakeholders

In brief, external parties (including large firms) are permitted to invest in Germany’s domestic football clubs – however they’re barred from having overall control. The boards are chosen by the club’s shareholders and its members (typically also supporters) These stakeholders directly influence how their club is run.

When Red Bull visited Union Berlin

On 21st September 2014 when Red Bull Leipzig played Union Berlin at their Försterei stadium, Red Bull Leipzig were greeted with 15 minutes of silence from the 20,000 Union Berlin spectators who were clad almost entirely in black. The Guardian provided more insight:

With permission from Union’s management, fans had handed out black plastic ponchos at the gates, along with a pamphlet headlined, “Football culture is dying in Leipzig – Union is alive”.

“Today’s opponent embodies everything that we at Union don’t want from football”, it read. “A marketing product pushed by financial interests […], players with euro signs in their eyes […], supported by brainwashed consumers in the stands who have never heard anything of fan ownership”.

A banner inside the stadium stated: “Football needs workers’ participation, loyalty, standing terraces, emotion, financial fair play, tradition, transparency, passion, history, independence.”

Not a black and white story

This not a simple story of right versus wrong, or David versus Goliath. It may be a battle between two sets of values. Berlin represents the communitarian values found in German league football. But that has to be connoted with the fact that idealism has not prevented the dominance of one club, Bayern Munich. Does this make Bayern the object of wider cultural opprobrium?
In the context of Red Bull, it has been argued [link in German] that some balancing financial power is needed to break the dominance of Bayern.

How about Real Madrid and Barcelona?

In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona are both financial powerhouses. Barca has a cosy communitarian image, Real the commercial and ruthless one. Again, it may not be as simple as that. Despite Barca’s splendid fan-friendly way and support of good causes, it has received favoured treatment at State level.

Power and Leadership

Despite Red Bull being portrayed as the villain by FC Berlin fans – there is something intriguing about Red Bull’s motives and what they’re aiming to achieve here. Red Bull has a track record of successful investment in other sporting franchises, so FC Leipzig isn’t some kind of new and bizarre experiment; Red Bull are following their previous blueprints for success at Red Bull Saltzberg and also at New York Red Bull.

The spirit of sport

No doubt, football romantics would prefer a vista where all are equal and everyone is given their equal chance. For Berlin’s fans to dress in black and lead a silence of 15mins demonstrates unity and belief in a set of values – values which are increasingly diluted in a football world dominated by high commercial stakes.


Potemkin villages and the politics of Formula 1 racing

October 11, 2014


Formula 1 heads for Sochi and the Russian Grand Prix, where a huge PR budget has been described as producing an example of a modern day Potemkin village

The Telegraph came up with the brilliant analogy of the Sochi site as a modern-day Potemkin village.

Potemkin village

Catherine the Great, accompanied by a gaggle of courtiers, made an unprecedented six-month trip to Novorossia – literally ‘New Russia’ – now the much disputed and fought-over territories of eastern Ukraine. As governor of the region, Grigory Potemkin, a favourite and lover of the empress, was tasked with impressing Russia’s allies along the journey.

The tale goes that Potemkin’s men would assemble mobile villages, dressing up as peasants, before moving the settlement down the Dnieper River overnight for inspection by Catherine the next day. The notion of a ‘Potemkin village’, a facade concocted to hide an undesirable reality, was born.

The Sochi Autodrom, more than 300 miles away on the shores of the Black Sea, has all the hallmarks of a modern-day Potemkin village.

Similar to a simulacrum?

I have been looking for a way of explaining a simulacrum for students of symbolic leadership. A simulacrum is a term for a representation of an original that never existed.

Maybe, in future I will offer Potemkin villages, and The Sochi Autodrome to my descriptions.


Oliver Wilson beats McIlroy and himself to win the Dunhill Links Open

October 8, 2014

The sporting story of the year is the victory of Oliver Wilson ranked World no 792 over Rory McIlroy, World No 1, at the Dunhill Links Open. It will inspire a generation of players. But how did it happen?

The story seems one more rerun of a movie in which the nice guy hero is heading for the top and starts to fall back from the elite group of players to lose his playing rights for top tournaments then continues his fall until he reaches the ignominy of needing a wild card even to play at the Dunhill event.

After three rounds he has surprised everyone by leading a field all of whose players greatly outrank him. News reports suggest he has had his moment of fame before others will sweep past him on the final day.

Put not your faith in numbers

As far as I have been able to find out, no-one before the event had backed the rank outsider. After the third day, Wilson gave an interview in which he said the right things about playing well enough the next day to give himself a chance of winning. It didn’t sound convincing. I expected one of the chasing pack would out-score him by a few strokes.

That’s what you would conclude from evidence of countless tournaments on the assumption that the top players would all score randomly around par. That is also why stats can always be used to suggest probabilities, but not not certainties.

What happened next?

Wilson did go on playing good golf. Incredibly good for the lowest ranked player in the field. Good enough to keep ahead on the World No 1, who did indeed play one of those low scoring rounds, and finished a stroke behind Wilson.

Oliver’s efforts have changed his future career

What is a certainty now, is that Oliver’s future will be different from what anyone expected a week ago. He has financial and professional security for at least two years,with exemptions from qualifying on European tour events.

How did it happen?

The answer is both simple and at the same time treacherously difficult to suggest with any confidence. Wilson identifies a critical incident which helped him iron out technical weaknesses in his swing.

Psychological alchemy

This came about from generous advice from a fellow professional, Robert Rock. The technical advice, by some psychological alchemy, was transmuted into confidence in Wilson, and into belief that he could survive playing a bad shot and get back to playing good ones.

That is what Wilson believes. This is very much a case of sense-making when otherwise the story has no meaning.

What happens next?

Oliver Wilson faces more personal challenges. For a while his progress becomes news. No pressure there, then Oliver.


Dilemmas for Doctoral candidates

October 4, 2014

Doctoral candidates face the two challenges of making a contribution to knowledge and of defending their claims against the toughest of scrutiny. The methodology of conceptual mapping and examination of dilemmas offers an additional research approach The principles were outlined in 2006 in the first edition of the book Dilemmas of Leadership, a post-graduate teaching text. An earlier LWD post gives a brief overview. The approach The approach draws on a social constructional treatment of knowledge generation and validity testing. In its initial use, it was offered to business executives to assist in their evaluation of leadership texts. In this post, it illustrates a way of simplifying the epistemology offered on doctoral courses in business and the social sciences. In its earlier application, executive MBA students are encouraged to study emerging leadership news stories, deriving a conceptual map from each. This ‘map reading’, like any life skill, improves with active and regular practice. ‘Map-testing’ includes processes found in research methods courses for investigating the reliability of the information and its validity. These two processes feed into the third, in which the derived and tested maps of a story are examined and compared with the personal map of the student. This process permits personal and experiential learning. Termed ‘map making’ this is the revised map of the student beliefs about leadership for personal reflection and class discussion. Beyond the basic system A range of additional procedures are introduced to support the basic system. These include a search for dilemmas as significant hard-to-resolve decisions confronting the actors in the stories, these include the personal dilemmas for the student (‘the most important leader you study is yourself’). Extending the process to doctoral research The process offers possibilities for modification for direct application in research studies even at the level of doctoral investigations. A workshop opportunity has arisen which will be reported here in a future post. Update for Doctoral students The brief for the doctoral workshop was The Evolution of Leadership and Management and its links with Theories of Organisation: Bringing it all together. The syllabus indicated that the workshop follows the student’s journey through different perspectives on organisation and management theory (modernism, scientific management & Bureaucracy); neo-modernism (human relations and culture management); critical perspectives; postmodernist organisation theory). Students were advised to revise these topics to be prepared for discussion at the workshop.

Further updates

Further updates will report on the workshop and add discussion points from subscribers.


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