A Pair Of Ruby Slippers

February 25, 2007

Dorothy Gale Biog

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 8:43 pm

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Date of Birth – Undisclosed, Heswall, England.
Date of Death – 13th June 2069 hit by a falling giant “M” when walking under a “cinema” sign, Monte Carlo
Spouse – married 29th May 1999 to Spencer Holmodopolos, Greek Shipping Magnate

Mini Biography

Born in Cheshire in the 70s, a daughter of a salesman and a potter, Dorothy moved to Oxford in her early years. She was always encouraged to speak her mind and try out different activities for her body. She became an avid fan of Martha Graham technique continuing to practice until her death. She had two brothers both much older than her, that often took her to the cinema to watch her beloved films. It was during this time Dorothy decided she would become an actress.

Dorothy attended stage school and after graduating began getting small roles in plays in the West End. She always attracted attention in these parts, especially for her roles in “I’m 16, I’m Leaving Home” (1987) and “I’m Off to the States” (1991); then she finally broke into the mainstream when she took the starring role of the stupid English girl in “Getting Arrested in Malaysia” (1994); The inevitable film offers followed, and after recording a few screen tests, she was cast in “Get a Proper Job” (1996), opposite Johnny Depp. The film was a surprise hit, and after agreeing to her salary demands, Robert Bassett Film Co signed her to a contract. She made two more films during 1996 and 1998. Winning her first Academy Award before defecting to rival production company CCE Studios where she remained for many years featuring in several more movies.

Alongside these film roles, Dorothy was also active behind the scenes (see producer and director). Offstage she used her time to foster her interests in the arts and took every opportunity she could to travel.

From her early 50s and by then working only occasionally, Dorothy explored the world with her husband until her death in 2069 in Monte Carlo.

Trade Marks

Played independent women who thought they knew what they wanted
Was known to moan at the start of a project before settling down
Liked to be entertained and enjoy herself
Worried about everything
Great in a crisis
Very short attention span
Hard on herself

Quotes

Sorry, can I just ask you about this?
Just because it has always been done like that, doesn’t mean it has to be done like that
Its fam’ly, innit, fam’ly
I’m not a control freak, its just that I am the only person who will do it right
Why does everyone else’s look different from mine?

Filmography

Actress

1990s Dorothy played many roles and the ones we will look at here are the ones where it’s apparent she acquired some of her most notable skills. In 1996 in “Get a Proper Job” she played an incompetent sales person turned rookie office worker. The early part of the role involved her being slung out of shops and sworn at, her character starting naive then slowly learning to counter that kind of conflict. The plot followed her dawning realisation that nothing was worth being that unhappy and that you can change your situation as the character took a new job in an office. Having studied method acting at stage school and sporadically throughout her life, after some relevant research, Dorothy demonstrated a natural ability with technology, becoming PC literate in order to be credible in the second half of the film. The film was well received by the public and Dorothy showed great promise that they could expect a stronger performance in future movies. There was a problem however; the management of the production company saw her as typecast in similar ‘gritty” parts. Dorothy knew to progress her acting skills and be seen as a serious artist she would need to move onto a more open-minded production house.

2000s Following her move to CCE Studios, Dorothy’s first role was as a supporting actress in “In Outlet Manager” (1998). She received critical acclaim for her performance praising her for her life like practical knowledge. Her character was once again in an office environment and so she was able to build on her previously learnt PC skills and spent hours with real experts to appear on screen as if she really understood her character’s position. It was “In Outlet Manager 2, The Sequel” (2000) that saw Dorothy progress from supporting role to leading lady. Here Dorothy’s character grew in responsibility managing the change in the film’s storyline from the first film’s chaotic overtones to the second’s more relaxed and organised pace. As a result of this success, Dorothy’s confidence grew and she started to take on the responsibility of looking after younger aspiring actors and actresses. This was a responsibility she took very seriously and always tried to use every avenue open to her to gain knowledge on the best way to go about this. She would become a bit of a pain always asking for advice. It was worth it in the end though as she built a softer and more intuitive way of dealing with people, a relief for the media who had to interview her.

After some time away from the limelight when she undertook some backstage work (see producer and director), Dorothy made her first 2 attempts (again with CCE Studios) at a comeback to acting. The first was half hearted and resulted in a poor performance in a second rate movie as her passions were still very much with producing (The Dream Time, 2003). But the second attempt was much more successful as she had taken enough time away, had carefully prepared herself mentally and physically and was ready to return to the big screen with renewed zeal. Her enthusiasm rather than skills, which were rusty, carried her through (and rubbed off on the other actors) a small part in an excellent film “Time for Change” (2006) which although well received by critics, was not the box office hit she had anticipated. It was later that year she decided to take on extra acting lessons to help find a way through this difficult period and keep her enthusiasm from waning. They had a positive effect and in 2007 Dorothy was to make “Another Year”. A film which saw her display old and new talents with renewed vigour. This film though was in a similar vein to the ones that had preceded it and if she was going to avoid being typecast once again and be able to retain her enthusiasm she would need to rethink her performance. Behind the scenes she re-examined her career. When she finally decided to be honest with herself, she realised that this was the only time in her life that had not been thought through. Her early career had been planned meticulously and she knew exactly how she would spend her old age, but this part of her life had been neglected. With hindsight this was not very impressive as it was likely to be the longest stretch of time in her life. If she didn’t decide what she wanted to do she was in danger of grabbing any role which came her way or leaving the profession totally without really considering the consequences that may hold for her. This was not an easy thing to resolve but at least she had realised this was an issue. It was also notable that when she took some advice it made her think that ideas she had held several years ago were perhaps right after all and that recently her purpose had been a bit misplaced.

It was around this time too that Dorothy started having difficulty with the owners of the studio. She felt overlooked but was contractually bound to stay so used the time to try and improve on the skills she felt she were lacking. She had previously looked after less experienced actors and it was this direction Dorothy was to take again, first in informal coaching then taking a more official role as a Drama Instructor. She wanted also to be more aware of other elements of her profession and how it was developing. Eventually she decided she had learnt all she could from the crew at CCE Studios and left to see if she could build on her skills elsewhere. JFDI Studios had a vacancy for a director; Dorothy got the job and moved to the next phase of her career (see director).

Producer

1990s In 1999 Dorothy’s life took on a different direction when she took the job of producer for the first time in “2 Funerals and a Wedding”. This was a long term project; eventually becoming the prequel to two other films she was involved with also as producer. The credentials needed for this job were different from her acting roles but would be useful for other areas of her life. She learnt more about people and how to exist with and get the best from them over a period of time. Tolerance and negotiation skills were also sometimes required, but her love of change and ability to “add a different flavour” to everyday tasks stood her in good stead. It had been rumoured that until her experience as a producer Dorothy could be rather stubborn. It is known that she received a great deal of advice and life coaching from a close friendship forged on the set (although was still known to throw the occasional celebrity tantrum). She was also later to credit this time in her life for teaching her how she wasn’t always at the mercy of her emotions and that she could make a conscious choice to affect them. Her acting experience helped here as she found she could often act confident even if she wasn’t feeling it. She thought often about impression management and was reminded of her early days of Graham technique where she learnt that the way she moved her body would affect how she felt.

2000s Dorothy produced two more movies, “The First Born” (2002) and its sequel “It’s a Girl!” (2004) these were to test her more than any other roles in her career to date. She had to acknowledge that her actions had a direct effect on other people and maybe most crucially, accept that there were areas in this role that she couldn’t always control, some of her cast for example. This was difficult for her and something she battled with on and off for years to come. A fellow Producer gave her the following advice that stuck with her, “Dorothy, you really need to learn to say F*ck it”. Crucially this part of Dorothy’s career backstage showed her that a life treading the boards was not the only meaningful existence. She began to see herself with a different frame of reference, not as the prima donna actress at the centre of her world but as a part of a whole within it. This role forced Dorothy to make important decisions by herself. In previous acting roles she had been able to take the advice of those around her, but now she was where the buck stopped. This was liberating, she would take this new found attitude to the rest of her life and work, empowering herself to make decisions and facing up to the consequences if necessary.

Director

2010s 2010 saw Dorothy direct her first movie for JFDI Studios, “Callow” was a low budget movie but Dorothy showed excellent directorial potential and it was to be the first of several exciting and unusual films to come from JFDI after Dorothy joined. None were mainstream but all were unique with many becoming cult favourites. The odd flop went largely unnoticed in the name of experimentation.

Dorothy stayed with the role of director for several years with various different production companies and even set up a small one of her own as a side project. As she aged she took a less hands on approach, and eventually she was delighted to find herself in a position where she was able to just work occasionally on projects she found appealing as was the Hollywood model.

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February 20, 2007

Theatre of The Absurd

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 7:43 pm

“You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you’re confusing courage with wisdom”

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I want to use my next post to assess my current skills and make a plan for the future, but I felt it needed a little more introduction. I mentioned Symbolic Interactionism in an earlier post and admitted to having a soft spot for a certain protagonist’s work – Goffman. His theory of self (or rather parts of it as it is too complex for full use here) has been my inspiration to question and evaluate my skills and investigate a future strategy. I hope by using this approach, I will be able to stand outside of myself and consider my roles more clearly, rather than try and think from the inside out as with Myers Briggs.

As I have previously stated, Goffman uses a theatre analogy to attempt to define self. He places importance on the roles we play and how they are assimilated within us to become who we are, as opposed to viewing an individual as having fixed traits. As always with these things common sense tells us that the truth is probably somewhere in between, but this approach of “role” fits well for discussing different aspects of life in a situation such as this that I find myself in. I am using a fake actress’s biography and the role idea instead of creating a more traditional plan. I have used a few of the online tools to give myself some background ideas and some thoughts for questioning myself but they felt very dry and did not keep me entertained very long. Halfway through I tended to wander off, get tea and forget about them. I hope by using a more unusual medium it will help me to really think the issue through at a less superficial level whilst also being entertaining. Entertaining not just for me but for you too. Goffman tells us we need to be aware of our audience, consider yourselves considered. Welcome to the theatre, let’s hope it’s not Absurd.

The picture above, in case you are wondering, sums up beautifully how this reflection is making me feel – no not like a naked blue boy, but rather simultaneously ancient and infantile, slightly out of place and uncomfortable. It is making me challenge “truths” about myself that were, at some level anyway, completely fine 5 weeks ago and making me focus on debunking what I assumed I wanted. A sculpture like the one above asks us to reconsider our ideas of the body and indeed, people. I am trying to turn this towards myself.

The hardest thing has been to admit that although I had had my life all figured out up until now (and when I am old) I had sort of ignored this bit. When really faced with giving it some in-depth thought I got the opposite answer to what I started with. Ho hum, maybe this will revert again, we’ll see. It also reinforced to me that my life, and especially my career is not now my own, what I want for that role is second to what I need to do for my children. I have tried to concentrate on gaining skills rather that setting out a clear career ladder as I think that, certainly in the next few years at least, this is a way for me to progress so that eventually when maybe I am able to dedicate more time to my career I don’t find myself left too far behind. I don’t see this as a problem, just a fact; the kids are much more fun than work anyway.

February 17, 2007

Dorothy? Well, what has Dorothy done?

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 9:39 am

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This was never going to be my favourite part of the course and I have struggled a little recently, OK I’ve blubbed like a baby however, I think I can feel an epiphany coming on. Unfortunately it has come at a price, the diet has suffered and I broke the rule about no drinking on a school night. I am not going to transform personality overnight but I think there could be a glimmer of change brewing.

One of my issues with this reflective part of the course has been around disclosure. Funny really as in my day to day activities I am a very open person, I always think I say too much rather than the other way round. It is in a formal setting I find this stuff hard; I am just not comfortable being in the spot light and discussing myself. I know why and I have decided not to share that information and I think that that is fair enough. The reason for not sharing is that I feel there is a fine line between formal self disclosure in a setting such as education or work and self indulgence. This may just apply to me personally but I think that if I were to discuss my personal issues here it would be the latter. I have given this much thought, it is not a snap decision. I genuinely believe I would not benefit from it and neither would you, for me this is not the right place, and you are not the right audience. It is not a big deal. Am I scared of making myself vulnerable? Possibly, but why would making myself vulnerable make me better at my job? Even the Johari window agrees with me here as it states that there is some personal information that has no bearing on work and as such is fine to remain in the 3rd quadrant of their window known as the “hidden self”. It is not easy to decide what bit of information belongs in which quadrant but I have drawn my lines.

My way through this section of the reflective unit – i.e. the bit about me and my experience is to start with and concentrate on my current life. I will set the scene here and then move on to the skills evaluation and plan in my next posts.

How did I come to be in my current role? I was already working in Munchkin Land, albeit not for the Lollipop Guild at the time. I had arrived there from The Chocolate Factory in 1998 after an horrendous 6 months in Sales (I was rubbish) followed by a year in the office working on the sales system which was much more fun if not exactly challenging. The reason I decided to leave The Chocolate Factory was because my colleagues were low on morale and it became a slightly depressing place to be. I found that having everyone around me moaning about the company soon brought me down too. I was new into this kind of work and was actually rather enjoying it and its perks so decided that I would look for a job elsewhere. I wanted to be somewhere where the other employees enjoyed being. Salary was not a huge consideration although more money would of course be handy; I did give some thought to career prospects at that stage but actually the move was much more about instant gratification.

I heard about a job in Munchkin Land working on setting up and implementing their sales system. As I said, I had gained relevant experience and so decided to apply. I loved my interview which consisted amongst other things of a senior Munchkin with his feet up on his desk asking “why the hell do you want to work here?” and various other non standard interview questions. He was lovely, unusual, a character, funny and best of all as I was to find out later, a bit of a thorn in the side of bureaucracy. I would go as far as to say that I consider him to be a critical incident in my professional development. He made me see and believe (by demonstration) that you don’t always have to fit the current business manager model to progress in that type of environment. Mind you, he was made redundant last year. I miss his take on life and his “unprofessional” advice. He was one of many characters that were more in evidence a few years ago in our company.

Anyway, I got the job… talk about a hospital pass, the system was naff, the kit almost never turned up and I had to train 800 users who didn’t want to use the flaming thing. Great, should have paid more attention at my interview. I found though that when I should have hated every second of it I rather enjoyed it. There were moments when I wanted a big hole to swallow me up, but I derived so much satisfaction from resolving the tricky situations. I had to travel a fair bit around Europe which again I enjoyed (except when I hated it, if you know what I mean?). I managed to discover much about the sales system and become An Expert helping to resolve a few bugs which had dogged the system for years. I worked with some interesting and very varied people. For example, I learnt that throwing your mouse really hard at a wall in the Paris office followed by profuse swearing in several languages could be an effective form of stress management (a different form of bleep test perhaps?). Another moment of clarity, actually maybe even another critical incident was getting a new boss. He was different from any I have had before or since in that he was hell bent on enjoying himself all the time at work. Apart from the times when I would have liked to have thrown him through the 2nd floor windows, we really did have a fun whilst working harder than I had ever done before. I think this was when I realised (call me a slow learner) that whatever I ended up doing I needed to enjoy it. Money was not the be all and end all. I have always found money to be more of a de-motivator rather than a motivator, what I mean is that if you offered me loads of it to do a crap job I wouldn’t be interested but I do get fed up with never having enough of it doing a job I enjoy.

Then that boss left and I was promoted into the role. I trucked along happily for a while and then realised I was bored of doing the same thing. I watched my director carving out a new role for himself in what he decided to call eBuisness and figured that he would probably need someone to actually do the work whilst he was busy strategic visioning. I put this to him and he agreed. It was not completely daft, I had a certain technical know how, good contacts within the business, experience of project management and probably most importantly, experience of change management in a “hostile” environment. Initially I ran the two roles side by side and then the internet side of things became large enough to separate them and it became a job of its own. Oh yes, I also had 2 children and took some time out returning between them for a frustrating and unproductive year and then coming back again after the second child wanting to take the world on and change it. Unfortunately I found this slightly tougher than I had first anticipated. This brings us up to date. I started this course (why didn’t any of you talk me out of it?) as I was bored at work, frustrated with encountering the same old issues and at the same time feeling that I was the one who could really change things, if only I just had a bit more brain, some courage and a fabulous pair of shoes.

So I think I am different from some of my colleagues on this course, many of whom are completely dedicated to their work. I do love the internet and web design and if it wasn’t my job I would still do it. But I think it could be a different media and I would be just as happy. It is not my first or only love. I like the idea of the Hollywood Model, of working on a project I am passionate about with other likeminded people then going off and using my skills to do something else with someone else. What makes me tick is being creative, doing something different from the status quo, being progressive, helping people out, being autonomous, building relationships, resolving issues and perhaps even making some of my colleagues’ working lives easier. What I am trying to say is that those are the elements I look for in a job, rather than it being a job to do with the web. I have other outlets in my life for my real passions, that doesn’t need to be my day job. I am working on getting the balance right in these areas and should have it licked around 2068 I think.

February 7, 2007

Contemplating Navels?

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 9:02 pm

office4.jpgGuardian of the Emerald City Gates: The wizard? But nobody can see the great Oz, nobody’s *ever* seen the great Oz… even I’ve never seen him!
Dorothy: Well then, how do you know there is one?

Good grief… it’s been an interesting couple of weeks looking at personal development and reflection on the MA. I feel like this has been sent to try me. It has only been a couple of weeks since the last munchkin do where I had to do this stuff in practice and now I have to reflect on it in the forum…. I can hear my boss, who is in Oz (not the real Oz) sniggering at the irony of it all.

Alongside the discussions on reflection there are other debates emerging, are we including enough theory? Are we too frivolous? This is tricky, whilst this is an academic course; it is supposed to be about work practice. The balance is a fine one. I want to understand the theories, their applications and their limitations, but more than that I want to learn from my fellow students and their experience. One wizard has pointed out that each of us will have a natural bias towards learning from theories or experience, I am realising that I have tended to value the latter more highly in the past but am starting to wake up to the role that theory can play. Its not easy though.

Due to limitations of time (and word count) I am going to pick one of the reflection theories we looked at. The reason for choosing this one is that I have used it, with varying degrees of success, at work. It is the Myers Briggs Theory (MBTI). We discussed in the forum that this form of personality typing could be restrictive and simplistic. Whilst that is clearly the case, each time I have worked with the Myers Briggs theories the practitioner has been at pains to point out that these types are an indicator and not to be taken too literally. The way the MBTI theory works is to assess how you see yourself, with no input from how others see you and (I am told by an experienced certified practitioner) that you are discouraged from guessing someone else’s profile so the element of how you see someone else is also removed. Do we know ourselves independently from those around us? This sort of theory will give you a certain type of answer that could well be different if other people were consulted. In the workplace this is something that is often addressed via 360 degree feedback as an attempt to get a fuller picture, the Myers Briggs theory lacks that viewpoint entirely. It bothers me that this element of personality is not elicited in this theory. Looking back over other theories of self it seems that there has always been recognition of the importance of other people’s viewpoint as an influence in our construction of how we view ourselves. Cooley’s Looking-Glass Self for example and Symbolic Interactionism would assert that we are who we are purely because of the role we play and have played in “society”. I should declare that this idea works for me and I have particular empathy with Goffman and his explanations of self using a theatre analogy, but then I would, wouldn’t I? Life’s a stage after all, marvellous. Whilst perhaps it could be argued that this sort of analysis is implicit within MBTI, there seems to be little formal recognition of this.

In the forum we discussed how we would (possibly) enhance our CVs to give the impression we thought was desired by whomever we were submitting them to. This hints at us consciously (or unconsciously) acting or changing our behaviour depending on where we are, who we are interacting with and what we are doing, that the way we behave is maybe not fixed. Goffman’s dramaturgical theory draws on this and believes that unlike Myers Briggs we do not have a set way of acting but rather that we play at a role for a while and then as we get proficient at it it becomes internalised and develops into a facet of our personality. A further criticism aimed at the Myers Briggs theory is that it is sometimes applied to areas it was not designed for, for example it was designed within a Western culture and as such may not be applicable in different cultures. Fromm’s work on personality theory also places a great deal of importance around the effects from each society in shaping personality which would seem to be in opposition with the Myers Briggs approach. Fromm argues that different societies produce different types of personality.

With these limitations in mind, I still think the Myers Briggs theory has something to offer reflective thinking in the workplace. I have a simple example of this, two of the Lollipop Guild were on an MBTI course with me, one reported into the other one and she drove her manager nuts. This was because she had a relaxed, laid back attitude to work, never writing a plan for anything and never stressing about what there was to be done. The manager on the other had was a stickler for detail, liked a plan and was happy to see a flurry of activity before a deadline. What the MBTI course gave them was a better understanding of although people work in different ways they can still achieve the same results. This is an unsophisticated outcome that could have been reached in a different way, at an appraisal perhaps or during a vending machine moment. But this course was specific time set aside to purposefully look at how we like to work and how that relates to and affects others in our guild. Myers Briggs, with its Jungian approach, was an effective tool to start that discussion. I often heard the two of them joking about their differing approaches after the meeting and I am convinced that it gave them enough reflection time and space to find a way to work together more efficiently. Whether it was the theory itself, the fact that we took time out (literally out in a different and neutral location) or if any half decent theory of reflection would have had this outcome is not clear. I am not sure that it matters as this combination was effective.

As with the wizard’s statement about people having a preference for theory or experience, so too will people have preferences for the way they work. Myers Briggs would argue that whilst you can change these to some extent and for a certain amount of time – like one of our wizards in his car dealing days, you will eventually revert to your “type”, particularly in stressful situations. A link here with an old saying about people showing their true colours in times of difficulty perhaps? However, I discussed this with an experienced Myers Briggs practitioner and she pointed out that people agree to their types too easily and enthusiastically (see next paragraph about Forer) and this she felt diminished its value as a personal development tool with particular reference to the nature versus nurture debate. Another issue with the theory is that people often know about the types (or just read ahead in the booklet they are filling out) and try, when taking the test to head for the type they fancy.

Similar to the limitations mentioned above, the forum introduced the Forer effect to us. I suspect this will be a factor for many people going through MBTI. We discussed the fun elements in identifying with a type especially one that makes you feel good. None of the Myers Briggs types are officially held up as better than others, although I know on our course some of us wanted to fit into the corners as the practitioner announced (dubiously) that these were often occupied by leaders. I wonder if you can get the Forer effect by proxy? I mean if I am told that leaders occupy the corners of the Myers Briggs grid and I see that that is where certain colleagues of mine sit, will I project values of leadership onto them and henceforth see them in that light?

This leads to another thought. The theory can only be as good as the person delivering it. Scarecrow, whose job it is to deliver this type of training has flagged in the forum how many of these trainers are not as good as they could be. How is this assessed? Myers Briggs trainers have to be certified, so there is a degree of measurement, but knowing your theory and delivering it in a lively and engaging way are two different skills. Additionally there are also issues if the trainer is extremely talented in delivery, as Forer again points out, we could confer misplaced authority on them and on the theory they are training us in – i.e. the influence of the particular trainer becomes more important to the trainee that what they are actually training, perhaps a kind of transference as referred to by Lacan that can occur between teachers and students.

Another question, does the workplace care? Are these courses just a way to pacify senior managers that employee development is being carried out and tick the right boxes on the HR form to prove this fact? If any of the Lollipop Guild read this I would love to hear your comments of the experience within our environment. I suspect for us that this is true to a certain extent. The Lollipop Guild is a small team within a large organisation which needs to be seen to be carrying out these kinds of activities. I sincerely doubt that my upper management who never even take the time to see me (well one visit to one meeting and then left early) really gives a stuff about my personal development (although at a basic level it is cheaper to keep a decent employee than replace one (yes I am decent)). I think this changes as you come further down the tree though, I genuinely believe that my line manager completely cares about my personal development and that of the rest of the team. So hopefully then he feels that the upper management care about him and maybe that is enough caring for all of us? It is important to be careful what you wish for after all, I don’t really want The Mayor of Munchkinland popping in too often; he might get in the way of my projects.

Something else that troubles me about these formal exercises is the extent to which they are delivered unchallenged by the Munchkins. No one seems to question why we are doing them or if what we are doing is appropriate. Is this because we trust our manager to do this for us? I rather suspect that our manager would encourage a little more debate around this and not to blindly delegate this authority solely to him. It seems to go against his ethics of team play. I also wonder if it is thought of as “unprofessional” to question too much. I have a theory about that; I think it can be a useful phrase to stop employees rocking the boat. I think Fromm might have had similar thoughts when he wrote about Automation Conformity, when you lose who you really are to become the preferred type of personality of your society (and be warned he said this would make you crazy). I have questioned the other members of The Lollipop Guild about their silence and they tell me that they enjoy the opportunity to leave the office and spend time doing something different. They felt they got more from it when they were doing it for the first time and now were less fond of the reflection exercises as they felt they were going over old ground. They explained that they didn’t openly challenge it as it wasn’t that important to them and they didn’t want to not be doing it at all, but possibly would be more satisfied if it was done in differing ways (they didn’t like my conspiracy theory, tsk). So this implies that we need a way to keep this work reflection fresh. This is something I have not encountered in the theories I have looked at, an element to allow for boredom. We need to vary what we do, this means that no theory will work each and every time no matter how effective it is deemed to be, a longer term approach needs to be adopted. Someone should tell the trainers…

Enough of Myers Briggs.

I would like to summarise a few of the other points we have mulled over in the forum around reflection. One I touched on earlier here is how the physical space you are in affects how you behave. Had I not had a stinking cold this weekend I would have recorded a short dance piece in a couple of different environments to demonstrate this point simply. Instead you will have to be content with a short written example. When we leave our office and stay in a (usually lovely) hotel we are free to think or “act” differently and we come up with some excellent creative ideas. It is so hard to then take these ideas back into the office and carry on the momentum. Our office is no showpiece, but is certainly not the worst, but it is a natural habitat for doing (or acting) “the day job” and this is what is fixed in our minds. There are in between spaces, we have breakout areas that mix meeting facilities with more important things like table football and Wii machines. These do a good job on a daily basis of providing enough room to feel a change which in itself can be refreshing. They do not replace (and indeed I don’t think they try to) leaving the office periodically because although they are altered spaces from desks they are still an intrinsic part of the office. I would assert that the hotel is back stage and the breakout areas merely the wings.

We also discussed inspiration in the Forum and whether these formal reflection exercises were necessary because people did not receive enough daily inspiration at work. This is a tricky concept. We realised we were inspired by different types of people and that they would have had to do a great deal of reflection and possibly training to have become so inspirational so we talked ourselves fairly full circle. I raised the whole macho element… (then hid under my desk for a bit). At our work and I suspect we are not alone the “softer” skills are taught with a huge element of tough masculine competition. It is straightforward to see that a successful athlete “wins”. This is then translated into the work environment to make us “win”. For example, senior managers at Munchkinland have been on a management course where they have been required to take the bleep test (to do with stress management) and keep food diaries for a week. Whilst this may be useful to some degree, it is clearly discrimination biased towards healthy and fit people. What if the manager taking the course was disabled? Was the bleep test the same for the men and women? Should it be? What the heck has it got to do with anyone what sort of food someone likes to eat? To me this at worst has sinister undertones and at best is discriminatory. It is also a good ruse by a training company using athletic success to sell a dubious course.handbags6.jpg

So where does this leave us? As I said in the forum, I am glad that unlike several of my fellow students, I get the chance to have structured work reflection time. It provides a pause for me to make sure I am doing what I want to be doing, that I am making the most of my time, not missing anything and also fitting in with the team. Or if I am not, it is time to think about what I can do to change things. I would hate to not ever take time to do this in case I let the days pass me by and then suddenly I had been there 10 years and not made the most of things. The other members of The Lollipop Guild I discussed this with agreed. I am sure that doing this formally is not the only way, but it is a way and it does force the point which I see as no bad thing. I appreciate the opportunity to get out of the office environment and meet the team in more neutral surroundings without the usual distractions. In addition it is rather pleasant to be spoiled in a lovely hotel, it makes me feel rewarded and is something I would not be able to do without work (until the lottery win). I sometimes wish the standard of the reflection exercise we undertook was higher, more appropriate, more contemporary and (in the past) less cold and muddy, but if the alternative is never doing it…. I will keep drawing the shields.

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