When we’ve forgotten how to live

We’re in an emotional, spiritual, intellectual tizz
because we don’t really know what it is –
without a definition
we’re like a stork with a kneecap condition
a boa with a constriction
and for every attempt there’s an equal and opposite valediction
verging on contempt:
there’s nothing that culture cant surpass
with its formidable ability to disappear up its own arse –
“Its the way we do things around here”
Our way of life,
its collection of code, rule, habit, convention and permission,
our very own road to perdition….

But ontologically there is no such thing
just an IDEA of culture formed under historical conditions
for retrospectively rationalised premonitions,
a means of exerting control,
a drawstring on the pants of humanity,
the romance of a profanity scrawled on the bog wall
an explanation when nothing else at all is to hand –
a phantom of our own creation and justification,
a hollow incantation,
our collected frame of perception
our own personal deception
terrifying when it becomes apparent
that its paper thin, fickle, fragile, transparent
because we’ve hung so much on it being real
it can mean anything we want it to,
farmed, cultivated on demand,
because when we’ve debated, cogitated and obfuscated
but can’t prove otherwise, its irrefutably true:
“Its the way we do things around here”
But where is the dream, the aspiration,
Lost in the stagnation of inertia and a mumbled soliloquy to stability,
conservative drowning in a small sea…..

it will always be made, never the creator
never the participant, always the spectator
never the cause. always the effect
as arcane in our affection as in our neglect,
always an explanation in the dearth of intellect –
narrative, sedative, preservative, laxative,
“Its the way we do things around here”
when we’ve forgotten how to live….

We know what it is, its reach, its power, potential and opportunity
Amid the complexity and uncertainty of an ever-changing world
“Its the way things might be”
It creates situations – environments, experiences, exhilarations,
even nations have been conceived beneath
a sign-pen and crisp white sheaves,
and in the sweeping, twisting curves of its sculpture
it can create the very idea that
bemused, bruised, dazed and confused
we have somehow called culture:

What designer doesn’t hunger for a wicked problem,
a predilection for iteration
(like trying to find the exit at St Pancras station)
fearless of the myopic,
at ease with ambiguity and uncertainty
(and the promise of a BCO regional award for sustainability)
– the ultimate test of what might be….

And what workplace scheme didn’t take a wicked problem head on,
and carry in its appled eye a dream of new ways,
resistance grappled,
its contradictions untangled,
with lots of old panaceas cloaked as new-fangled,
all baggage left at the departure gate
however over budget or late;
and what workplace scheme isn’t named like a new-born
under the heady musk of a burnt orange dusk
with all the promise a pristine life brings –
For what workplace project would ever limply proclaim
lets just have more of the bleeding same?
Who would throw millions at the delight
of different day, same shite?
What Brief would ever come without an aspiration for
communication, interaction, collaboration, innovation,
Whoever thought that design wasn’t going to bring transformation?
Make real the vision of “the way things might be”,
or freeze poetry?

never the product, always the creator
always the participant, never the spectator
always the cause. never the effect
as prime in our affection as we come to expect,
always the spark in our heart and intellect –
protagonist, evangelist, sensualist catalyst,
“Its the way things might be”
the very reason, we exist….

And if you think culture has played a blinder
and gets your vote
here’s our Graham with a quick reminder
of what I wrote:
Will it be design: driving us toward a promise
A full field of vision, will and determination;
Or will it be culture, frivolous,
playacting in the back seat,
awaiting permission, a figment of its own hallucination
a hollow cheer;
You can vote for “the way we do things around here”
But me –
I’m with the way things might be”

Barefoot in the heart: part 2, the gen y

we’re going to transform the world you know gen y not sure when actually we’re already changing it because we’ve been talking about it over the gaggia and we are the change we want to be in the world or whatever that means some guy called ghandia and that includes the workplace going to shake you out of your malaise and your complacent glaze you think we’re your slaves but I got this new role management trainee modern apprenticeship industrial conscript it’s a sustainable company wouldn’t want to work for anyone not green enough wanted to work for them since I was nineteen even though it’s not really explainable because they make stuff in vietnam but they say they don’t do anyone any harm no-one sweats and they said I can travel the world carrying bags hailing cabs who wants to talk over the internets and we do loft living closer to the stars looking at life through a velux okay so its mum and dads house and the windows have bars but who cares a mortgage sucks don’t want to get bored trapped blogged down am going to live in the centre of town when I can afford it suburbia is so claustrophobic me I’m a digital native binary creative fourth dimension ruminative we can multitask behind this vegetative mask we rock positively pulsating we can’t help it if you find it frustrating you have to learn to manage us and motivate us and we’re not devoted to the organisation like your generation ecks we’re just going to sit in the middle of the road with our arms folded and not text until we get promoted command and control is so last century even though I’m on a disciplinary  a first written warning for insubordination okay so you were a punk and you’ve got a faded photo of yourself in a hard pose with red hair and a safety pin through your nose about to spit thought you were revolutionary but didn’t get you much more than another step towards a coronnary and we’ve got fifty shads and you’re just missionary and this taylorism is all to blame heard this fella got us into all sorts of schidt seems it’s a relentless masochism but he hasn’t been england manager for years and didn’t he have an umbrella anyway its no a cliché but one day am going to go do an mba in the usa because all my friends say they want to at least the ones in idaho on facebook do anyway but in my heart I am barefoot my soft uncertain steps unheard no trace I was ever here not a word not even a twitch from behind the curtain temporary a flickr in a world of instant gratification arrived at an empty station 7.42 to waterloo just departed my existence vapour my vision of world domination fame and fortune just a broken hearted three minute slot on television an early round eliminated picked the wrong tune see me hear me it’s what I am not what I’m not

Eve of Combustion: a song about blogging

Written for #chru4, performed by @DougShaw1, and music and inspiration by Barry McGuire

The blogosphere, it is exploding
Now we don’t need, html codin’
You make it all up while WordPress is a-loadin’
Convinced yourself, you’re the new Seth Godin
Follow and engage, you gotta be jokin’
And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
That you don’t believe
In online conversation

A thousand re-tweets every hour of the day
A million hanging on everything you say
You think you’re a god, givin’ it away
Covering the web in your pheromone spray
You’re a broadcast service in the old fashioned way
And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
That bloggin’s just
A one-way gratification

My blood’s so mad, feels like coagulating
It’s not all about your popularity rating
There’ a world of bloggers all agglomerating
Thinking and writing and participating
All without a need for ego self-inflating
And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
But I believe in
2-way communication

There’s a million consultants, under-employed
So @FlipChartRick gets really annoyed
There’s a Semco case study, for @Garelaos
And @Kevinjball is lost in the French Rennaisance
@naturalgrump is heading for combustion
& @AlisonChisnell has planned another marathon
@MJCarty’s has awards he likes to pin on
But the top three slots always go to @NeilMorrison
So I tell you
Over and over and over again my friend
That bloggin’ is
the soul of motivation
Oh I tell you
Over and over and over again my friend
That blogging is
A soul emancipation

Paper crown

To the tune of Dirty Old Town (Ewan MacColl, 1949) – which interestingly for the BBC was originally written about Salford
As performed by Doug Shaw at the “stop doing dumb things” unconference, 23.11.11

I left my post
For the third place way
Made a slice of toast
And coffee last all day
I was so engrossed
I forgot to pay
Flexible clown
Flexible clown

I challenged all
Of the same old ways
An office wall
And nine-to-five days
Then I got the call
They put me out to graze
Spiralling down
Spiralling down

So I left the yoke
Of the corporate see
For the commercial joke
That’s consultancy
Now I’m totally broke
But I’m wild and free
Paper crown
Paper crown

So I’m on LinkedIn
And Facebook too
I blog, and I’m tweeting
Till my face turns blue
I write and sing
I’m called @dougshaw2
Talk of the town
Talk of the town

Threw my paper crown
In the River Thames
So this is where
My story ends
In a dirty old town
And a beer with friends
Falling down
Falling down

I’m king of the town
If I’ve got my friends
Paper crown
Falling down

Two solitudes – a poem

Two solitudes….
Two attitudes, two latitudes and two longitudes,
two journeys, from nowhere to anywhere
never bisecting, never deflecting,
never expecting to meet let alone compete for the same grey space between them
Unending parallels, separate white collar middle class hells,
An eternal modularity denting any hope of solidarity,
preventing any chance of breaching the duality
or reaching an understanding….

Which is why one early summer evening
as the city put its chairs on its desks and started leaving,
after another ten rounds of corporate affairs
and rubbed its swollen, watery eyes
another five percent off the footsie one hundred
diddled by another unknown trader
a pinstriped, adrenalin-riddled darth vader,
no longer a surprise and like anyone cares….
two lost sultanas in the fruitcake of life –
wannabe husband and usedtobe wife –
snuffed stomach-lining bananas and headed
from their respective dark satanic clerical factory
at opposite ends of the CBD
To the nearest fusion boozah
Lost in its own confusion,
freeport to every cruiser, loser, muser and battelcruiser
where if you could block out the sherbert waft of stale perfume
and cope with toe-puncturing standing room
it would get you through
till the 7.47 to Gidea Park
and the onrushing dark

They entered in synch, two doors, two distant shores
and as the throng parted like the red sea
two adjacent stools appeared at the bar
Not an opportunity for the complacent and so
in a moment of uncharacteristic serendipity they sat
a secret slapstick comedy
Two mild temporal platitudes,
two gratitudes,
the red sea lapped at their feet and re-joined
Two solitudes, momentarily conjoined….
A shared paralysed ineptitude, a social chasm
Waiting for a reflex or spasm, to ignite –
And then, amid the surrounding chaos
of the hazening night
Two conference papers sent simultaneously and soft thuddingly against the bar,
hands declared in nailbiting revelation
Workplace trends plays connectinghr:
A shower of pins dropped, cronos in his mighty tracks stopped:
Who wins?


We do a lot of rejecting hr, dissecting hr and deflectinghr
They’re a body shop
Registering birth and death
If you get a call between four and five, deep breath, it’s your P45
So what’s the reason for the assassin’s convention,
new modes of career prevention?
Massing to devise new codes for rejection,
with a big sing-song at the end
about how with business partnering nothing can go wrong?
Excuse my cynicism, there’s a mortal schism between what we both do,
We’re focussed on people, and so are you….

Are you in training?
Sorry I don’t mean lycra and step classes
Its just the way you look over your glasses
it’s like you’re making sure its sunk in
A total immersion, like a knowledge dunking
I’m Piers, if I didn’t mention
Rhymes with beers which suits my intention
And my tendency to ramble to break the tension
You may have to scream if you need to attract my attention
Or unscramble the stream….

You’re in OD? Is that a medical emergency?
Oh, Organisational Development, I see
For ours it’s a contradiction in terms, inherently absurd
We’re the Butch Wilkins of consultancy
We need to arrange a Beerhall Putsch to generate a spark of concern
Our business is change
But we’re DIY no-marks, we never seem to learn….

Our hr director is like a ticket inspector,
majored in the psychology of manipulation, must have a scientology fixation
I mean where’s the fluff and blether?
We have more than enough to go around – so
Let me tell you what’s burning in our mind
And you may begin learning that we’re an altogether
different kind…..

for one, we’re constantly wrestling with the future of work
If it changes and we don’t see it was it ever there at all?
Pestling ideas until they disintegrate, saturating from the endless cogitating
An almost catatonic state, a Camusian fall
See our crystal ball pulsate while we contemplate a high-tech state of nature,
a fatal rupture in the establishment,
the demise of the physical structure
and no place for a workplace consultant where there’s no workplace
Of course HR isn’t concerned with high-octane stuff like this,
An altogether higher inventive plane –
you probably think its all retentive guff…

We’re driven insane
by how can we enhance organisational performance
with the physical domain
And trying to design and deliver competitive advantage
when our workplace briefing is endlessly repetitive
And re-write the text so that each project doesn’t look just like the next
Tormented by how can we escape the seemingly endless monotony
of open plan, break-out, meetings and café –a design lobotomy,
So we pin hopes on technology that’s not yet invented
Name our space like our pets
and squeeze acronyms into faded aspirations
no regrets when our pre-occupied scheme wins BCO accreditations
we pour in the people like milk on our cereal and add sugar to taste
and wonder if the dream was all just a waste?

We can’t help thinking that social media
and our dispensation toward coffee drinking
Will be the fragmentation of the workplace,
casting it to the four winds of cyberspace,
How will our people feel connected and engaged
when cast adrift, rejected, dejected, right royally stiffed,
enraged having loyally served, alienated just when liberated
But I don’t suppose matters of this kind shatters the calm of an HR mind….?

So how are you stress levels?
Are you supported, motivated, valued, invigorated
Are you well, and if not how can you possibly tell?
Do you have a place to chill, work out, meditate,
and if you’re ill but don’t know it, contemplate lifestyle choices
Even if all you hear are little voices saying ‘Kill! Kill!” – ?
Can we design wellbeing, are we part of the problem
or is there a panacea we’re just not seeing?

Can a workplace create a normality
that our networked informality may obfuscate?
A home in the wilderness of ephemery
to which we migrate, through unconscious memory….?
Anyway look, I’m spent,
I should relent and let you tell me – what’s your torment?

Workplace Trends?

Looks fascinating, the pictures of those offices are so motivating
not like our shotgun shack,
not even Craig Knight and his flotilla of pot plants would put our place right, held together with saliva and blu tac
the last survivor
renovated just after the cavaliers capitulated

We just can’t afford the dreams of those who think they’re PWC
all that showboating gadgetry would have the competition gloating with glee, another twenty percent on every fee
the ruinous price of sustainability
And what’s the price of that gargantuan anonymity?
When Dunbar says I can only know a hundred and fifty
Why be the Smartest Giant in Town
If all I get is a laptop and a self-reliant frown
Where’s the intimacy
in being a dinghy on the open sea?
Like Brian Szpackowski says, I just want to be happy…..

My name’s Caroline by the way,
rhymes with wine which suits the occasion and pantomime which describes what I do
Not great being white Caucasian
with no distinguishing marks of diversity
when you’re an HR director,
fifty three, thirty years and counting I’ve seen it all me
Used to all be tea and tampax of course
when we were Personnel but now we’re business partners,
Not that you can tell,
sat at the top table but stuck at the end where no-one can hear us,
our own empty shell
at least Personnel sounds like people or personal, the “human” and “resource” just commoditise
hardly a surprise when all we seem to want to be is commercial;
You see you’re nothing if you’re not a strategy
But now no-one trusts us, severed our roots they say,
dead tree standing,
icon of the past and now dispensable
With the hours we work it’s indefensible underhanding,
we care about our flock, but we’re now in executive hock,
grappling with our own image
our loyalty split like a sappling,
if only we could find a way to re-engage…

Our workplace manager runs the place like Il Duce
I know it’s a cliché but clear desks, files away, we asked for fresh flowers for the hours we spend there every day
and got a barbed wire bouquet, its no wonder we feel this way….
Let me tell you what’s smouldering in our mind
And you may understand why we prefer to leave all that property stuff behind…..

Top of the pile is the future of work,
we’re stuck with a creaking model of the tied corporate peasant,
nine to five, five days a week,
expect you present and if you’ve no good reason we’ll consider it treason Job title, role specification, salary band,
and for the lucky few the helping hand of a training plan,
Woe betide anyone complaining
Happy with the structure for decades
we’ve been caught cold by the rupture of social media and changing expectations,
nothing fits our machinations anymore, we’re bust, flat broke –
But I suppose for a workplace bloke that’s all just a bore….

So how can we make the car go faster for longer, with a more comfortable ride
When we’re strapped to the outside?
We can make a proactive contribution
we’re not just a sticking plaster
We want to be the co-driver, orienting, wiping the visor,
Mentoring, the trusted advisor, an insight akin to second sight,
And happy to drive through the night….
It’s a dream we romance
A reality beyond the hype, if we would only be given the chance
But I don’t see your type pondering productivity….

Attraction and retention?
It’s all an invention of the crisp-white-shirted convention,
No, we’re cleaning out the stable for the runners and riders
they expect us to source,
Whatever happened to the job ad, the CV, the certainty of three interviews, a pressed shirt and a psychometric test?
Social recruiting, it’s the latest Trojan horse used in the war for talent
But there’s no Troy, and the only Achilles in this sorry ordeal is our punctured heel
We’re more likely to be struck by lightning than reach the albescent
leaders of tomorrow hiding amongst ordinary civilians,
or working in a beach bar in the Lesser Antilles
we just can’t create the compelling offer – it’s not enough that we can line their coffer – but you’ll spend no time dwelling on this stuff….

And of course with social media everyone’s a personal brand
we’re not sure where we stand any longer, individual identity just gets stronger at the expense of control and direction
everyone’s so connected
they’re facing a different direction contemporaneously
with us, and without, simultaneously –
we’ll need a three-dimensional employment contract next
and a consequential deployment of patrol bots
to know where they are and what they’re doing
We used to worry before about catching them snogging
in the stationery store, a manageable deviance
now its blogging under an offshore flag of convenience
but I don’t suppose you bother with this rapport…..

But even when they’re finally on the payroll
Keeping the seventy nine – no eighty – viral strains of the 2st century apocalypse at bay is impossible
Airborne, waterborne self-induced, psychosomatic or totally obscure it seems its down to us for identification, prevention and cure
We know Doctors like Oseland and McEwan
but quackery isn’t their doing
We need a blanket of wellbeing,
any kind of antidote to the perennial sicknote of the millenial
lock the doors, keep them all in and stop them seeing anyone,
or is that all just a bit extreme?

You started all this, I’m one mouthful away from needing to head to the station and yet approaching hyperventilation
Sorry to unload, bet we’re glad you don’t do what we do
Never work with people and animals unless you’re forced to
Shame our worlds are entirely divorced
We might have found some solace in the descending mist
Shame the evening is ending,
And I’m not even half – drunk….

It was well past eight thirty
When two sets of papers were scooped into the wrong cases, and two happy faces with cards swapped slipped into an empty street
Both pennies halfway dropped
Enlightenment half complete
So this is where the journey ends
connecting hr and workplace trends
two solitudes, one common ground
our circles concentric,
common populations, organisations, aspirations, incantations –
we’re all eccentric, but inherently people-centric
our primal condition,
the fundamental recognition….
So if a poetic refrain is what it takes to explain that solitude is pain –
For those within who are not quite sure,
I’m just going to lock the door – and read it all again…

Crap Entertainment

To the tune of That’s Entertainment

Wrong kind of leaves and I’m two hours late
The interviewer thinks I’m the next candidate
He ends in tears, got personal issues
I get the job because I’m carrying tissues
That’s crap recruitment, that’s crap recruitment……

First day and they forget I’m arriving
It’s like a juggernaut with no-one driving
A mass walkout ‘cause the boss is a nazi
I get promoted ‘cause I was in the khasi
That’s crap engagement, that’s crap engagement…..

Log on by eleven but they block social media
They think Twitter’s just for Justin Bieber
Cant get a smartphone or a tablet PC
They say they’re part of the liberal conspiracy….
That’s crap equipment, that’s crap equipment,….

Their take on modern flexible culture
Is circling over your head like a vulture
They tried mobility but that was a failure
Half the staff went to work in Australia
That’s crap enslavement,  that’s crap enslavement…..

Waking up from bad dreams in foetal position
Ignore the whispers and stares of suspicion
I get an e-mail saying I’ve failed probation
Here’s a box to pack your humiliation
That’s crap termination, that’s crap termination…..

Two worlds passing like ships at midnight
Concluded I’ve been missing the solitude
I’ll keep trying till I find what’s right (for me)
And in the meantime make Jam and write poetry….
Crap entertainment, crap entertainment….

Human Resource

Words by @workessence (Neil Usher) Music & brilliant performance by @dougshaw1 (Doug Shaw) at #chru 2011…..

So welcome to careers advice
By Crystal, Balls and Whistles
For us, ten minutes’ sacrifice
For you, a bed of thistles
Blessed as we are, with retrospect
We may just steer you rightly
We’re not quite sure what you expect
But suggest you curse politely
Contractually from what we say
There’s no redress or recourse –
You’re on your own and on your way
Now you’re a human resource;

You’ve come prepared I do regret
With your qualifications
You may as well have stacked a debt
On hedonist vacations
There’s nothing at university
You can’t find in the cloud
Your i-Pad is a library
And talking loud- well, is allowed
And I see you’ve got a suit and tie on
A stuffed shirt without remorse –
Get your jeans, forget the iron
Now you’re a human resource;

Its great you have a CV
But that’s for oldschool peasants
We’ve abandoned linearity
Now its online presence
Its from here to ubiquity
With LinkedIn, Tweets and blogging
Push a 3D identity
and avoid the dead-horse flogging
You may be digital native
But you’re really rather coarse –
You’ve got to get creative
To be a human resource;

So – you want flexibility
And a chance to work abroad
Pure sustainability
And merit-based reward
Space for concentration
And interactive tools
Online collaboration
And exemption from the rules?
There must be some confusion
You’re a million miles off course –
A super-sized delusion
For a human – bloody! – resource

But I see you’ve got a start-up
And are followed by a legion
And organise a Tweetup
That’s legend in the region
You fart and its Retweeted
You cough to find it trending
And every thought completed
Is another patent pending
I feel the truth approaching
We’d better close this discourse –
‘cause I’m the one needs coaching
Now you’re a human resource….

Dedicaated to Clark Morrison, 1923-2011