Formula 1 and The Glass Bead game

April 11, 2017

 

The wondrous striving for innovation in Formula 1 racing suggests a modern version of the Glass Bead game in Herman Hesse’s masterpiece and the answer to the question ‘what’s the use of a baby?’

The idea struck me as I admired the unfolding story of the Chinese F1 Grand Prix race recently. Such effort, courage, innovation, political intrigues, strategy. Many ingredients for an MBA elective, I thought.

Then I asked myself the dangerous existential question, what’s the point of it all? At the back of my mind, I dimly recalled the question “what’s the point of electricity?” asked of Michael Faraday, who allegedly replied “what’s the use of a baby?

A little research suggested that my memory had accessed an urban scientific myth. Among other versions, Ben Franklin replied to the question “what’s the use of a ballon?” with a similar answer. Among other unconfirmed replies is another on the subject of the use of his electrical ‘toys’. I cannot say the use, he is alleged to have replied, but I can guarantee that one day you will be able to tax them.

For whatever reason, challenging the purpose of Formula One also reminded me of Herman Hesse’s classic, The Glass Bead Game. The book is set in the future, where the highest of human achievements are conducted in a province dedicated to the life of the mind. Students are all male [a point worth noting]. The pursuit of knowledge involves devoting one’s life to studying and playing the complex Glass Bead game, which I think of as multi-dimensional Go and Chess.

The central character is Knecht. Like much of the book, the name has subtle references, in this instance to Knight (which linguistically relates also to Servant). His journey to enlightenment and to becoming Magister Ludi (Lord of the Game) is traced. An important theme is the value of a community closed off from the outside world.

This question increasingly disturbs Knecht, as his path unfolds. He reaches a personal crisis and leaves the boundaries of the closed province to serve in the outside world. There are several embedded levels of story at work as the book reaches not so much a conclusion as with a necessary incompleteness. At one level, the story ends with the death of Knecht. The narrator asserts there is far more which cannot be told.

It is not difficult to re-examine Formula One through the lens of The Glass Bead Game. The provinces set aside for the pursuit of the FI game co-exist with regions of the outside world, but isolated from them. The boundaries are fixed in time and space for the practice sessions and for the games themselves. Players are admitted from lower level disciplines, F2 being the next highest.

Rules are strictly administered, but as in Glass Bead contests, no two games are identical. Over time, the dedication of industrious and dedicated players enriches the game. Many innovations occur. Sometimes the argument is used that the innovations enrich the well-being of the world outside by modifications to everyday automobiles, making them safer, more energy efficient, so therefore more environmentally efficient. One enterprising group of medical researchers was grant funded to study the efficiency of in-race pit-stop team work, to transfer the knowledge to the logistics in operating theatres.

These arguments would not calm the moral concerns of an F1 Joseph Knecht aware of the general lack of enthusiasm in Glass Bead racing for changes away from clean energy use, or for reducing pollution visited on cities around the world hosting the games. A similar case for real-world gains from the space-exploration Bead Game ended in the weak claim that the intellectual efforts produced the non-stick frying pan. [For the record, the reverse causality has also been suggested for space exploration.]

Electric cars in F1 seem an oxymoron, as their silence is anathema to the tradition of the sport, and a regression from the ultimate purity demanded by initiates and Magister Ludi alike. Revolutionaries dreaming of F1 pioneering electric cars, are being urged to replace the silence with the traditional throaty roar of petrol engines.

These dystopic thoughts of mine cannot conceal the appeal of the wonderful Glass Bead game which is the Formula One enterprise. The lengthy years of rule by Bernie Ecclestone as Magister Ludi seem to be drawing to a close. Whether a Joseph Knecht figure will emerge as new leaders remains open, like the end of Hesse’s masterpiece.

I turn my attention to another ivory tower question I have heard from time to time, in business school workshops. ‘What’s the use of an MBA?‘  As Benjamin Franklin might or might not have said, ‘I cannot tell you exactly, but I guarantee you will be taxed on your earnings from it, one day‘.


The Wet Signature

April 6, 2017

janus1

It is March 29th 2017. Shortly after midday, a letter from Prime Minister Theresa May will be handed over to Donald Tusk, the President of the EU. It will be a symbolic and historic gesture signifying the start of the process of our withdrawal from the European Union The letter is said to bear a Wet Signature.

Sometimes a term is so evocative that I immediately register interest in turning it into a book-title, before I have written a single word of the book. That was my reaction this morning on hearing about The Wet Signature. It suggests spying and visceral actions. The cover of the book would have a figure slumped over a piece of paper. A pen had fallen from a lifeless hand. Ink (or is it blood?) oozes down the paper, and onto the desk.

The letter from Theresa May is signed by hand. A photograph purporting to be the actual moment of signing has been released and will be endlessly replicated in the old and new media.

A tale of two Donalds?

Yesterday, a photograph was released of Donald Trump allegedly signing The Energy Independence Executive Order which will dismantle President Obama’s climate-preserving legislation.

Each gesture signals changes taking place which will have global consequences. Politically, each requires leadership of the highest order.

It is an irony that Theresa May at the moment has two Donalds to deal with. Each will need careful managing if she is to achieve her stated objective of obtaining the best possible deal for the UK.


Chess Boxing: No April Fool’s Joke

March 27, 2017

 

Chess Boxing is one of the world’s fastest growing sports, part mind-game, part physical bravery and athleticism. I received notification of an event in London scheduled for  April 1st including a political grudge match between UKIP and Lib Dem contestants. I checked to see it was all an April Fool’s prank

Not at all, I was assured. Get down to London to see it happen.

As Leaders We Deserve has more than its fair share of chess-playing subscribers, I thought the event might be worth a little more publicity.

The Chess Boxing Event

Pity the Fool!
Saturday April 1st

Headline bout: the BREXIT BELT
Featuring UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott vs LIB DEM activist Toby White

In this headline bout with political clout there is more at stake than just personal honour. Jonathan “The Tactician” Arnott is a strong club level chess player who fits boxing training around his duties annoying fellow MEPs in Brussels. His opponent and veteran of two previous chessboxing bouts, Toby “Slowby” White will be looking for payback after campaigning unsuccessfully for the Remain camp last summer.

The undercard has a strong Finnish theme with appearances from the giant Viking Lars “Lazarus” Bjorknas and his compatriot Ville “Jukola” Makinen from Helsinki. Cameron “The Hurt Locker” Little, the 6ft 7inch London favourite, returns following defeat in December last year. Also  will be hitting the ring, a wily boxer and former junior chess player, Guy Cohen, making his York Hall debut this April.

PLUS: full undercard, live cabaret, DJ, dancing, special guests, announcer extraordinaire Matt Andrews, big screen projection and live commentary so you won’t miss a move!

Venue: York Hall, 5 Old Ford Road London E2 9PJ
Closest tube: Bethnal Green (5mins)
Doors: 7pm. First bout 7.45pm
London Chessboxing has established a loyal cult following over the last six years winning rave reviews from all corners of the media for its totally bonkers mash-up of brains, brawn and pure entertainment. Chessboxing is an unforgettable experience!
“Chessboxing… the muse of our era, crystallizing the symptoms of the system for all to discern.” Karl Ouch, 2015

Meanwhile up north

Your editor is writing a fictional story involving chess boxing, entitled Seconds Out . [Title under protection through ISBN number, 2017].

A well-known regional chess player and amateur boxing enthusiast has offered to audition for the starring role of Tim Hagrid, if film rights are obtained.

 

 

 

 


A week remembered

March 24, 2017
A week that will be remembered in the UK for a terrorist attack  in Westminster, London
The news has been exhaustively covered since it broke, shortly before three pm [Wednesday, 22 March, 2017] , I offer only a personal recollection from a distance.

Read the rest of this entry »


What is Creativity?

March 20, 2017

Three questions about creativity for those ‘in and outside the tent’

My long-term creativity collaborator Susan Moger came up with three questions worth considering on behalf of those inside the tent (educationalists, practitioners, researchers, and so on) and those who might be attracted into the tent (educationalists, practitioners, researchers, and so on).

Here are Susan’s questions

What is creativity anyway?

Why should I care about it?

Why should I spend my time on it?

The tent metaphor is from a crude expression by President Lyndon Johnson.   [I don’t want to mis-attribute the quote]. Incidentally, LBJ also was reported as saying

“If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: ‘President Can’t Swim.’”

What is creativity?

Returning to the three questions, I have been consistent in my view that each individual has to take a view on the first question, but may be informed by the conclusions reached by many who had studied creativity extensively. The consensus is that there is no clear consensus!

That is not quite as bad as it sounds, and is consistent with the view that truth is always viewed through the lens of personal beliefs. Plato said it with another metaphor about seeking reality by having to interpret shadows on the wall of the cave.

I explained in a lengthy video a few years ago, how you may still hold on to some constant core of belief, even if the precise way you define those beliefs may change with time and experience. If you had the luxury of an hour to space with a good supply of refreshments, you may find it interesting. I recall mostly it was painful, as I sustained an attack of cramp due to being perched on chair too high for me to reach the floor.

Why should I care about it?

Because if you care about anything, you become more alert to possibilities. Creativity, even before we agree about formal definitions, is ‘something about’ how we discover new and useful things – about ourselves and our world. The useful things include life-skills, what we do, and how we might do them better.

There is a case which can be made for creativity being spontaneous. Some ‘Creatives’ [ugh!] worry they may lose their creativity if they (or others) examine it too carefully. I prefer to believe that study helps move from implicit to explicit knowledge. This helps us discover more about how we are creative and how we sometimes fail to create through barriers which are often self-imposed

Why should I spend my time on it?

Partly my answer to question two applies. A further argument is contained in the ironic comment made by Gary Player the golfer, to the effect that the harder he practiced, the luckier he got.

Maybe there is something in the old saying that practice makes perfect. I prefer the point that the wrong sort of practice makes permanent. It takes a special kind of practice (creative practice, maybe?) that leads towards improvement.

Image

From a creativity session in Brazil, ca 2010

Brazil Miami Sept 2010 070.jpg


Trump’s first Katrina moment

March 15, 2017
Political-polls

[from myspace-polls.com]

As a great snow storm threatens America’s heartlands, the President considers an appropriate leadership response.His briefing team has supplied him with a range of options
Option 1
say all news of the storm is false and show photograph of President enjoying sun on beach in Miami

donad-trump
Option 2
make snow disappear, bigly, from a helicopter
Option 3
find snowed-in family and rescue them single-handed from husky-sled with Trump-branded merchandise
Westie
Option 4
increase tweet rate commensurate with seriousness of storm
Winter of discontent
Option 5
release the best tax payment year document
What not to do
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with devastating effect, in February 2006, President Bush showed he cared by flying over the region. He was criticized for failing to show enough empathy. The image of the POTUS, safe and smug overflying the disaster zone,  turned out to be a PR personal mini-disaster.
He had been slow in postponing his holiday in Texas, and he and his administration were accused of politicizing the storm in a region with a Democratic governor.

The event was later referred to as a watershed in his leadership ratings, and his missed opportunity to show respond adequately in person, and subsequently in taking decisive action.
Defying the snowflakes
Leadership is often symbolic. Mr Trump has an opportunity to show his undoubted flair for the immediate big gesture. to defy a billion snowflakes.

Brain-busting for new ideas

March 13, 2017

I recently tried to come up with the name for an evil villain in a piece of fiction I was writing

After a few days without satisfactory results, I found myself falling back on a simple method of brain-dumping, brain-busting, or to use a more recent term a bit of mental deep-diving.

Here are my unedited free-associations.

The task:

To find a name for someone described as a shrunken desiccated husk of a man, from whom all joy and juices have drained away. He is clearly of the lizard family. he has the unblinking eyes and bloodless lips of the undead. There is a sinister, frightening, inhuman power about him.

When no name came to mind

I have long advocated the principle of freewheeling, trying to capture fleeting thoughts on paper (or, in this case on my aging iPad. The justification is that some kind of jolt is required. Various techniques are well-known and catalogued over many years. What follows is not offered as evidence for the success of what I did, but as an illustration of the word-salads produced

The Word Salad

Shrek, Desmond Dry, Redmond Drivel, Blister, Tylor, Sinfield, Zac

Plaque

The Pustular Gaston Groap

Plunge Biggedrake, Peter Plugge,

Pustule Puckle Puce Puldge Pulge Glute

Gaston Glute Pleute

Gaston de Pleute

Milton William Polder, Milt Polder

Gryce Polder

Logge

Luge

Pustt

Norbut Puce

Oliver Puce (aka Pustule Puke).

Choose wisely

How to choose? It is easier if you have a list of barriers or criteria for reaching a short-list of ideas. The might include Novelty, Appropriateness, Absence of obscene implications.

What happened next

I successfully escaped my temporary brain-freeze.  I will reveal what happened next, in a future posting.

Before that, I invite students of all ages to suggest how they might have joined in the brain-bashing, if they had been invited to do so.

Alternative suggestions are welcome, and will be acknowledged in the appropriate place (particularly if they assist me directly or indirectly in my immediate need for a name for my fictional villain).

See also

My recent note on dreaming up and selecting names, written at the time of the Boaty Mc Boatface news story