phone belonging

Belonging

At first it seemed normal.  Nothing untoward.

He was one of many making their way along the busy London station platform.

He walked a few paces ahead, a little to the side.  The left.

Like many of us today, he walked one hand held aloft.  Not at eye level, but held in front of his lower face. Face and hand locked at a fixed distance apart, hand leading face, almost as if invisibly tied together.

It seemed like he was following the scent of a delicate flower, cupped within his hand.

Instead, his hand held his mobile phone.

His eyes flicked down, then up, down, then up.  The time spent down seemed to dominate.  Maybe two thirds down, one third up?

My pace was slightly quicker and I began to draw almost level.

I glanced across.  Then lingered.

His screen contained the calculator.  A familiar sight. There were no numbers entered.  Just a blank calculator screen.

We walked on.  I adjusted my pace to match his.  Half a yard behind, just to the right.

We walked in synch. No buttons were pressed.  No numbers entered.  No calculations computed. His eyes flicked down, then up, down, then up.

He was one of the gang.  He was a phone walker.

Like me, maybe others who walked past this phone walker, or those who approached from the front, we might assume he was checking the latest news, scanning his social media timeline, reading a text or an email.

But no.

He was staring at a blank calculator app.  Content in the knowledge that he belonged.  Belonged to the morning throng of commuters who held their phones aloft. Scenting their technology like pungent hyacinths. He was no longer alone. He was accepted. He was a phone walker.

clap……..clap….clap

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We love a ritual, don’t we?

The Icelandic football celebration, arms aloft, slow clapping in unison with ever increasing speed, seems to be being adopted globally and I’m sure as the new football season approaches we will see it on many league terraces.

Rituals are important because they provide a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. They signify our tribe, and by taking part we signal our membership of the tribe.

We have rituals in our families. When I was a child we always had Saturday tea watching early evening television. Tea was always bread rolls, often with beef burgers or sausages in. Dripping with ketchup. Christmas and birthdays often offer up family rituals. Mince pie and a carrot for Santa’s reindeer. Christmas breakfast. Birthday meals. We pass these rituals down too. Sometimes the things we did as children we carry forward into our own families. Some pass down from granny or great granny.

There are rituals at work too. We see them as the culture. In my organisation we ‘go for tea’. Rather than grabbing something you drink at your desk, there is a ritual of going for tea or coffee with someone. Taking time away from our desks.

Towns and counties have rituals too. Like cheese rolling, or fell running, or the whole town engaging in a tomato fight.

Countries, culture and societies have rituals too. Like hunting a lion to prove your coming of age, or baby throwing, or tooth filing.

I’m not Icelandic, but I may well clap, if the opportunity arises. I sense this may become a football ritual, and I am, after all, a football supporter.

Clap ………. clap ….. clap .. clap

 

would you hire Archie?

Hierarchy

Think of four people you know. Friends, work colleagues, neighbours.

Now, including yourself, place these five people in a hierarchy. Who is top, who is bottom? What is the sequence? Who is above whom and what criteria are you consciously or unconsciously choosing as you create your list?

If the other people were to create a list, would it be the same or different? Where would they put you on the list? How much does that matter to you?

What if you were now to share the five lists with each other? The lists you and the other four people had compiled. Could you? How easy would that be? How comfortable? Would you be seek to justify your choices? Would you want to explain? Would you be honest? Would people expect there to be a reason, a logic? Would you be focused on how people were placing you in their hierarchy? How might your relationships be impacted by this exercise and revealing your view, your hierarchy?

We are naturally hierarchical. We compete. We try to get ahead. We judge success, we judge our position in the community, in society through hierarchies. It may be house, car, qualifications, money, job, pay grade, job title, grades our kids get at school, social ladder, societal groups we belong to, the universities our kids go to…

In most organisations there is a discrete hierarchy. An organisation chart. A boss, a team. Leaders and the led. Managers and the managed.  Pay, rewards, benefits, maybe where your office is, or the door you enter by, the technology you get given, or where you can eat? These are all symbols of the hierarchy.

Yet how easy would it be to create that hierarchy amongst friends, colleagues, neighbours, when they knew you had created it?

Strange that we live by criteria, structures and frameworks we find hard to own. Difficult to be honest about. Struggle to take responsibility for. There is both comfort and discomfort with hierarchies. Yet they are seemingly in our human psyche. A need to know where we stand in the group and a fear of what that might mean and the judgement that comes with that.

So would you “hire Archie”?  Could you?

the spectacle of spectating


I’m spectating today.

Many of us do this. Watch other human beings do things. Sport. Competing. These are common environments to spectate.

I’m not aware any other species does this. Just watch.

Is it to admire the abilities of others? To observe excellence?Do we aspire to their level of capability?
Maybe it’s about the experience? The thrill? The enjoyment?
Maybe it’s a throwback to learning? Learning to hunt?
Maybe it’s about the other spectators? A social thing? Being with others, enjoying the watching?
Maybe it’s tribal? We are part of a gang of like minded watchers?

What do we get from this watching? This voyeurism? And why is it only human beings who seemingly spectate?

standing in the crowd

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I’m fascinated by the resurgence of ripped jeans. Clearly on trend, they are everywhere. But let’s just pause for a moment. Who decided to sell us ripped clothes and when did we decide to buy them? It’s not just jeans, Converse sell scuffed up shoes, so that from new, you can have the worn out look. Some designer sneakers are available for $400 with a designer somewhere making hand made tears and marks on your particular shoes.

What next, cars which have scratches in the paintwork? Umbrellas with broken spokes? If the marketeers can persuade us, yes.

If it’s labelled fashion, it seems anything goes. But what does fashion mean?

At the high end it seems to be about breaking new ground. But for the masses, it seems to be about fitting in. About compliance. About peer pressure. Not new; ladies of the Victorian era had their wastes pinched so tight they could barely breathe, in the name of fashion.

Why do we find it so hard to buck the trend? To be individual? To do what we choose?

Or are we in fact doing what we choose?

Choosing to be the same? To fit in? To comply? To seek acceptance? To avoid judgement because others are doing the same? To hide in the crowd?

 

…the guilt of growth

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I wrote yesterday about the innocence of belonging. The compelling sense of loyalty to the tribal rules, thereby securing our belonging.

Yet growth and personal development draw us to move to new systems of belonging – school, university, new organisations, new teams and maybe to create our own family system. As we grow and develop, we risk belonging to earlier ‘clans’ by electing to behave in different ways in new tribes. Behaving and acting in the fashion of the new clan customs ensures our belonging in the new group, but risks our belonging in earlier groups on our life journey.

This tension between growth and belonging, guilt and innocence is described in Systemic Constellations theory as ‘Personal conscience’. Sometimes particular ‘rules of belonging’ to older clans can entangle us later in life. Holding us back, like a rubber bungee, making freedom and growth hard.

When you feel stuck, look over your shoulder and ask yourself, “to whom or what am I being loyal in staying stuck like this?”

What you find there may surprise you.

Acknowledge what is.

 

let’s draw a line

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It seems we like lines.

In organisations we draw them everywhere. This business, that division, this function, that department, this team, that group, my role, your role, this project, that programme.

Each time we draw a line it seems to both instill a sense of identity and belonging, whilst at the same time creating a barrier, an ‘us and them’.

The line tells me my place, I’m somehow safe, bounded by this imaginary line. I belong here. The interface between the parts, across the lines, generating a need to manage that boundary. We create roles to bridge the relationships, measures to show the performance of the parts, brands to show the difference… reasons to apportion and explain the blame.

But we like lines.

If the lines are removed, we seem uncertain about how to behave. Who is responsible? Who is accountable? Where are the hand-offs? Who am I? Who are you? How does it all fit together?

It’s like we become a jigsaw where the pieces haven’t been cut out, so we can’t see how they interconnect.

Lines, it seems, are everywhere though. Not just in large organisations.

I was speaking with someone the other day about their business. They work alone, as an associate delivering great creative stuff. They are pitching for a bit of work under their own brand and, in our conversation, seemed somehow uncertain – because of a line they had created for themselves. My business. Someone else’s business.

We create lines in families too. Blue household jobs and pink household jobs. His room, her room. My car, your car. My brother’s role, my sister’s role.

Lines.

Useful or a constraint?