London Reverse Diaries IV - Day 6

Day 6 - Friday 19th of July

The morning is dedicated to the Change Management Practitioner Exam. This is a three hours, open book “adaptive-style” exam, made of 80 complex questions, full of traps, with twenty questions per key topic: change in individuals, in teams, in organisations, and leadership. The objective is to prove an in-depth understanding of the theory by being able to disentangle fuzzy wording of questions, to make a connection with a real-life case and to demonstrate mastery in concepts and semantics. My feeling is good.

Along with Mascha and Afua with whom I have sympathised these days, we go for lunch at the Euston Plaza in front of the underground and train station, just on the other side of Eversholt street and the learning centre. There are plenty of benches and tables all around, already full, we’ll need to tighten a bit ourselves to push our bottoms on a bench’s corner. It’s easy to select our favourite kind of food among the various small shops and street food restaurants circling the plaza: it will be sushi for all. 

The discussion evolves on our “Learning cycle” during the course (reminder from David A. Kolb’s model on experiential learning:
Step 1: theory, reading, understanding the concepts
Step 2: select from theory what applies to each one’s own experience, discuss it among us, with examples and comments
Step 3: apply new knowledge by doing exercises, practising 
Step 4: reflecting on experience, making it ours, and from there maybe a new cycle of discovery and learning begins).
We reflect and consolidate learning, as each one of us is ready to go his or her way to apply what change management means.

We discuss also the usage of social networks for business, the differences between LinkedIn and Facebook, the fact that you cannot avoid as a business or an artist to be present and active on both platforms. The ladies pretend I am a geek. Of course I am. We say goodbye, life offers plenty of opportunities for reunions, and maybe next time in London or in Paris or God does know where but somewhere, sure.

On the afternoon I walk to Piccadilly Circus, spend some time at Waterstone’s main bookshop, five floors building, with a huge amount of books for all tastes. I browse the business books section, looking for some of the references discussed during the training, find Peter Senge’s books on the “Learning Organisations”; take a drink at the 5th floor terrace café from which we can enjoy the sight of Westminster, the London Eye and farther on, the high-rise skyline of the City. There are two screaming English ladies besides me, that I find quite disturbing, have to leave quickly, then go to Hatchard’s, the oldest bookstore in London (1797), supplier of the Crown, next to another famous place, the fine grocery store of Fortnum and Mason’s.

I purchase the book ‘Ten Billion’, just published – read it on a single row, and feel blown up by the horrific argumentation of Stephen Emmott and its chilling conclusion. In a nutshell, the book says: “We are fucked up”. It makes me think a lot in the following days. This is a book about global warming and the ‘tipping points’ we have already crossed beyond which our planet’s climate system becomes so severely disrupted that we cannot predict linearly the effects it will have on vital parts of the ecosystem (among which plants and their capability for photosynthesis play a vital role, or the release of massive amounts of methane gas in the atmosphere, thanks to the ice melting in the arctic, to name two highly chaotic and emergent features of those changes).

The argumentation goes back to the number of men and the consumption model of civilisation we have built, which is very successfully copied in all parts of the globe (the “emerging” countries).

I am thinking on nightmare scenarios of a future trans-humanity, which will be the kingdom of a few, those with enough deep pockets to afford the cost of living, and on possible “behind the scene evil plots” designed to forcefully and massively reduce the number of men. Shock therapy of a kind to save Earth, including saving our species. Should we self-sacrifice? This is a fool’s game; we know from game theory that among strategic players pursuing their self-interest, the equilibrium point reached (in resources, wealth, benefits distribution), by independent judgment makes all of them less well off compared to a concerted or negotiated agreement (Nash equilibrium).

I believe strongly in an emergent paradigm of positive human behaviour that can influence all levels of the system, from the individual to the planet, through our interactions in groups, organisations and societies. This is neither a ‘rationalist optimist’ approach (the belief that only the techno-scientific sphere of influence will solve all problems), neither a ‘rationalist pessimist’ one, (where the belief is that change can only happen through human behaviour but that we are not going to change our selfish egos). This credo I will formulate is being the one of the ‘tragic optimist’, the guy whose belief is that ultimately we are doomed (in the long run we are all dead), but that with this tragic perception of life we can and must bring change in ourselves in order to live a decent life, a life made for the common good, where we take care of each other, our family, our friends, and by extending the circles, projecting our empathy toward everything living, in short: practising the six Socratic virtues.

(The virtues:

“But where the danger is, also grows the saving power.” (Friedrich Hölderlin).

I go back to the hotel on a bike ride with a young Bangladeshi which costs me 30£, it is quite expensive but worth the experience of feeling a bit like in good old time of the British Raj.
David A Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle

Waterstones Piccadilly, The Dance of Change

HM Queen Elisabeth II at Hatchard's

Stephen Emmott, 10 Billion, Penguin - 2013


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