Paul Chambers: The case of the malicious tweet

February 6, 2017

 

The Judge

Paul Chambers, a frustrated air traveller, tweeted in exasperation at the delays to his flight. The tweet was to change his life, and not for the better

Our story starts in January 2010.  Snow was adding to travellers problems’ including those at Nottingham’s Robin Hood airport

A young accountant was in danger of damaging his planned romantic meeting. In heavily ironic tones he tweeted

that unless service improved, he would be back in a week to blow up the airport.

Pause for reader reaction

The cautious me suggests that if security learned of the tweet, it might prompt the mildest of low-cost checking to see if the tweet was intended as. Joke (say 99% probability) or a bizarre early warning of terrorism intentions (say 1% probability).

What happened next

According to the report of the court case, Mr Chambers was en route to Belfast to consummate a twitter romance in real life. Failing to make his flight, the thwarted suiter returned to work when the local police arrived, and hauled him off into custody.

Legal proceedings followed, which resulted in a fine for which the appeal was originally turned down.

Eventually his high court challenge was successful, as The Guardian reported

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2012/jul/27/twitter-joke-trial-high-court

 

Paul Chambers, who was found guilty of sending a menacing tweet, has won his high court challenge against his conviction. Outside the court, he said he felt “relieved and vindicated”, adding: “It’s ridiculous it ever got so far.”

He had tweeted in frustration when he discovered that Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire was closed because of snow. Eager to see his girlfriend, he sent out a tweet on the publicly accessible site declaring: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

He has always maintained that he did not believe anyone would take his “silly joke” seriously.

The lord chief justice, Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, said:

“We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the crown court that this ‘tweet’ constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it. On this basis, the appeal against conviction must be allowed.”

Twitter to the rescue

As the mills of justice had ground on, twitter had sprung to the rescue. Celebrity twitter comedians such as Stephen Fry offered moral support, the spotlight of publicity, and some bankrolling of legal charges.

Not the only case

The tweeter appeared on Radio Five Live today [February 3rd, 2017]. He seemed a remarkably sanguine victim of wrongful arrest and of the loss of his job. His new wife too has given him moral support. (I’m not sure yet if she was the object of his snow-abandoned flight in 2010.)

I added this case to my collection of stories about twitter going viral over injustices visited on tweeters. Airline passengers have appeared quite frequently in the stories. [See Dilemmas of Leadership .]

Lessons learned

Twitter is a good friend but can be your worse enemy. A lesson there for Donald Trump perhaps?


The Organizational Psychology of Sport: Preliminary Review

December 27, 2016

img_08281

 

The Organizational Psychology of Sport edited by Christopher Wagstaff explores the nature of sports leadership and the way in which organizational psychology can help in the study and application of sport. It shows considerable fit with the approaches found in the Dilemmas of Leadership textbook

Last year I added a chapter on sports leadership to the third edition of Dilemmas of Leadership. I identified three key issues for the chapter:

Cultural and personal identity through sporting engagement

Developing sporting excellence

Distributed leadership in sports management

These and other dilemmas are to be covered in contributions to be found in Wagstaff’s impressive text.

For sports management courses, The Organizational Psychology of Sport is worth considering for a core text, with Dilemmas of Leadership (or its Chapter 11) on the course reading list.

Please contribute to the review discussions

A more comprehensive review is being prepared. I welcome contributions from LWD subscribers.


Rainbow leadership. Let’s not do a black or white on Green

June 15, 2016

Retail billionaire Philip Green appears before a parliamentary committee over his governance of British Home Stores.  He is already cast in the role of villain by some, and a heroic defender of entrepreneurial success for others. There is need for more rainbow leadership, as I will explain

The specific news story in this post deals with Sir Philip’s appearance before the Work and Pensions Committee. I also introduce a new approach to leadership, which I have labelled rainbow leadership.

What is rainbow leadership?

Rainbow leadership attempts to relocate leadership understanding through the ‘whole spectrum’ metaphor of a rainbow.

It stands alongside earlier attempts to present alternative images of reality, such as are found in the classic text Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan. The existing and familiar metaphors include the machine metaphor, the network or brain metaphor, the culture metaphor, the organic metaphor, and so on.

The rainbow metaphor connects particularly easily with interpretational approaches to exploring the real and the imagined.  In my own writings it is implied in my various treatments of creative thinking, and most recently in Dilemmas of Leadership, earlier this year. Specifically, there is emphasis on ‘Yes and’ thinking, and its comparison with Either Or thinking, for which the metaphor is often black and white or binary thinking.

What’s black and white and red all over?

What’s black and white and red all over? The Christmas Cracker teaser only works if it is spoken not written. Rainbow thinking is, according to its metaphor red, green, blue and other colours which together may recombine into white.  Rainbow leadership recognizes this part-whole issue and deals with it rather than trying to over-analyse (splitting it down to its parts).

Black and white and Green

Leaders we deserve has followed the turbulent career of Philip Green since our blog started ten years ago. His titanic battles for ownership of M&S revealed Green’s pugnacious (sometimes literally) leadership style in the heavyweight category against Stuart Rose.

His appearance today [15 June 2016] focuses on his sale of his vast retail interests in British Home Stores for a peppercorn £1 with a modest sweetener towards its huge pension liabilities. The new owners were either a brilliantly visionary group of entrepreneurs, or a bunch of body snatchers.

Its new leader, Dominic Chappell, was described earlier by The Mirror as

an ex-racing car driver and former bankrupt. In a last desperate effort to rescue the company, Mr Chappell was reported to have moved £1.5 million from the company in an imaginative but ill-fated manoeuvre more suited to the racing track. He has since paid most of it back.

The Chairman of the select committee, Frank Field, spiced up today’s contest in advance. His remarks were followed by Sir Philip’s calling for his resignation, and threatening to pull out of the ‘invitation’.

This risks further censure. Calls have been made for his Knighthood to be withdrawn.

Back to rainbow leadership

The select committee has been accused of lacking the Rottweiler style of its former Chair, Margaret Hodge. My viewing last week suggested that their conversations  with Mike Ashley showed more than a hint of rainbow leadership.

Ashley, famed for his impulsive and confrontational style, was himself more conciliatory, accepting his corporate deficiencies. He even accepted that his company had broken the minimum wage employment legislation.

It will be interesting to see whether Sir Philip also enters into this spirit of rainbow leadership today.

To be continued


The Pros and Cons of self publishing

February 24, 2016
 Tennis Matters Blue

A year or so ago I started to think seriously about self publishing.  Since then I have had a chance to compare a text book published traditionally with three self published monographs and others in various stages of planning

First, let it be said, I publish primarily as a way of getting my ideas out there.  That has been the case since I wrote by first business book with the knock you down title Problem Solving through Creative  Analysis in 1973.  PSTCA was published by Gower Press. I think I chose Gower because a young colleague from Manchester Business School had joined them as I was completing a first draft. The book outlined work I had done on  ‘structures that destructure’, i.e. techniques for stimulating creativity.

Later I worked with with various publishers with whom I have shared a mostly amicable relationship. These include the collaboration with my current publisher Routledge, now part of the global Taylor and Francis group, who commissioned  my most recently published text Dilemmas of Leadership 3rd edition.

Money matters, but not like you might think

There is plenty of advice around about making a lot of money out of publishing. I am not able to offer such advice.  I doubt I have ever made more that 10% of my annual income directly from writing. On the other hand, a later version of PSTCA (mentioned above) was read by someone who became a dear friend and who brought me in to his company as an external trainer and  thus kept me in a slightly better class of  car for several years. His friendship was far more than an added bonus.

Intrinsic motivation
Anyway, I am a firm believer in the principle of intrinsic motivation.  You work best if you are primarily in love with what you are doing, rather than for the money it promises. Big earners only notice money if they feel a competitor is judged better because he or she earns more. It is an ego before bank balance thing.

On to the Pros and Cons

If you have are offered a contract from an established  publisher, cherish it.  The big plus is that the final product will benefit from a range of professional inputs from copy editors, proof readers, marketing, pricing and PR experts. Rare is the author with all these skills.

There are two major downsides to weigh against the benefits of the pampering with an experienced publisher behind you.  Traditional publishing is increasingly vulnerable to market forces reducing profits from ‘dead tree’ products. Your contract will reflect that.  The other issue is time to market.  Things are speeding up, but there is a long way to go before even the most successful of traditional publishers will be able to set up their own route-to- market to compete with with the lean mean electronic self-publishing route.

Self publishing is in contrast rapid, and has lower entry barriers (business school speak, but self evident), and thus  more open to anyone to give it a try.  The self-publishing author is able to produce print and e versions relatively easily. I use Amazon’s Create Space services which is a safe choice for the inexperienced author.

Frontloading and deep diving

A lot of tacit knowledge about being an author acquired through writing  twenty non-fiction texts, still left me wirth a lot of gaps in the skill set needed for self publishing.  One particular experience was the commitment to the discipline of writing regularly. Another was accepting that a great deal of redrafting is necessary.  Finally, pre-planning (‘frontloading’ ) before diving in to writing, is just as important.

I have already hinted at the down side of self-publishing.  You risk the vulnerability of the lone author.  You have to decide how to compensate for the other non-writing skills.

Search widely, invest wisely

I am now moving on to assessing the best investment for buying in some of those skills. A good example is designing a cover (which you need, incidentally, even for e books). Shop around, as they say about consumer decision making.

I kept reading about the advantages of going it alone  For me, this is not the best mind-set.  You should never go it alone, you need all the help you can get. The bigger question is which services should you pay for, and when. I decided to make my mistakes on a small scale, preparing to invest more when I am further up that learning curve.

My first self published books

My first self published books in  the period 2014-2016  followed the principle of getting ideas out to a wider audience.  I wanted to explore the nature of creativity and leadership in a new format.My first effort, The Manchester Method (e book only) was by way of a trial. I made my mistakes on a small scale.  The ‘final’ e-version still has the look of a book completed before the author discovered how to use advanced design options.

I followed this up with Tennis Matters  which I found easier to produce, having edged further up the design mountain.  I also found delight in making multiple revisions of the ‘final’ version, discovering that the self -imposed deadline was worth breaking at the cost of a few extra days to market.  That’s another advantage of self -publishing.

Other discoveries

Making a decent looking index is tricky but not impossible. I used Microsoft Word. I also found  that at my level of (in)experience, mini books were best for making minor changes.

Just this week, I received copies of Mourinho Matters. This had been the third self-published book since I started the project approximately eighteen months ago.  It is my most ambitious in length (just over 200 pages) and I am still going up that lengthy learning curve in producing print and e books.

Mourinho Matters

In hindsight

In hindsight, I just thought of another advantage. I selected topics I wanted to write about, and which were close to my interest and skills core. And I had a large number of researched and tagged research items available (including the thousand Leaders We Deserve posts) to draw on.


The Commons vote on Syria: All human life was there and also a few political dilemmas

December 4, 2015

thatchertankOn December 2nd 2015, the elective representatives of the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland debated for over ten hours and voted on the motion for overt military action in Syria.

The debate captured the whole range of human reactions from the authentic to the sycophantic, from the informed to the inflamed, from the arrogant to the resentful, from the committed to the confused.

Read the rest of this entry »


IAAF upstages FIFA as a case study of leadership challenges

November 9, 2015

IAAF

Move over FIFA, make way for the IAAF, which braced itself on Monday [9 November 2015] for an explosive independent report set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

UPDATES WILL BE PROVIDED REGULARLY AT THE END OF THE ORIGINAL POST

Read the rest of this entry »


Driverless cars, perils of AI and the importance of creative thinking

September 18, 2015

Trolley tracks

 

We are discussing artificial intelligence tonight, said Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark, and we have some very intelligent humans with us to help us do it.

That, by the way, is a sort of Newsnight joke. I think.

Artificial intelligence and the driverless car

To be fair, there followed a very intelligent discussion by the very intelligent humans on the increasing impact of artificial intelligence and the ethical dilemmas raised, for example in the emerging era of the driverless car.

Unsurprisingly, one expert had been brought in to reassure us of the unlikely prospects of some disaster scenario of the ‘computers will take us over’ kind. Another took the contrary more cautious view. The debaters showed even more respect towards each other that was shown earlier in the day at PMQ by David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.

Agency theory

At the core of the discussion is agency theory. I don’t mean the narrower ideas of corporate control between owners and managers or agents. I mean the great sociological issues of the nature of structures and the potential of humans to act as free agents.

In Newsnight, human agency was examined as potentially under threat by computers taking decisions. This introduces questions of whether the computers in cars and anywhere else will be able to deal with ethical issues on our behalf

To connect this to a problem of immediate practical importance, the case of driverless cars was introduced. The experts gently considered the possibility, concluding that it did not influence the positions they had outlined. But the Newsnight production team had their own secret weapon introduced by David Grossman, their excellent culture and technology editor.

The trolley problem

David has set up an experiment to replicate one of the famous ethical dilemmas known as the runaway rail truck or trolley problem.

Scientific American also had a look at it a few years ago, and I seem to remember a few references in The Economist. David, drawing on the BBC’s vast budget had obtained what looked like a bit of model rail track complete with a little red truck, and a switch that could be used to divert the truck way from the line that would kill five people and on to a branch line which would result in only one person being killed.

Grossman’s volunteers had the life or death choice of pulling the switch and after that the more tricky task of reflecting on the ethical dilemma to which they had been exposed. The volunteers conformed to the behaviours of countless laboratory subjects who had taken part in such experiments in the past. Yes, mostly they preferred to act. They also confirmed that it is jolly difficult to sort out that darn moral dilemma. What right had someone to take a life? Or not intervene to save five lives?

Hmm. What do you think?

When reintroduced to the viewers, the experts in ethics and artificial intelligence were given a chance to consider the implications of the experiment for philosophy, and the ethical problems of driverless cars. They tactfully avoided mentioning that a genius called Ludwig Wittgenstein has more or less drawn the poison out of ‘mind games’ as a bunch of linguistic traps.

More interestingly, one discussant pointed out a fundamental principle of creativity when anyone faces a tricky either-or decision. The concept is repeatedly found in my textbook Dilemmas of Leadership. A dilemma can be effectively re-framed if the binary nature of the ‘either-or’ is examined and its assumptions tested. You can apply that principle to the practically important issues of driverless cars, loss of human agency and ethical resolution of dilemmas.

I welcome comments and will elaborate on the conclusions later in an update to this post.