Why independence?



Wisdom from Zygmunt Bauman on how ’new type of (Facebook) friendship’ undermines human bonds.

Zygmunt Bauman 006

 Got this recently from a Brazilian friend. don’t be scared of the Portuguese language in the post, the youtube clip is spoken in english.

I heard someone boast to me that they made 500 friends in one day on Facebook.

I have lived 86 years and I don’t have 500 friends. When he says friend and I say friend we don’t mean the same thing. We have different kind of friends.

When i was young i never heard the phrase ‘network’. I heard of human bonds, communities. What is the difference between community and ‘network?’ Community precedes you. You are born into a community.

Unlike community, network is made and maintained, kept alive by two different activities. One is connecting the other is disconnecting.
And i think the attractiveness of the new type of friendship, this Facebook type of friendship I call it, is precisely in that. It is so easy to disconnect. It’s easy to connect, to make friends, but the greatest attraction is the facility of disconnecting.

Just imagine if you have not online friendship, not online connection, not online sharing, but off-line connection. Real connection. Face to face. Body to body. Eye to eye. Then breaking the relationship is always a very traumatic event. You have to find excuses, you have to explain, you have to lie very often. Even then you don’t feel safe because the partner will say, ‘you have no right … you are a swine … you are pig,’ and so on.
It’s difficult.

On the internet its so easy, you just press delete and that’s it. Instead of 500 friends you have 499. Its only a temporary irritant. Tomorrow you will have another 500.

That undermines human bonds.

I think social media has an important role to play, but ZB puts his finger on some of the dark side of our attraction to Facebook.

I’ve often thought that social media at times feeds into a kind of manic attention seeking. Where we ‘connect’ with far more people than is physically and psychologically possible to really relate to. These ‘relationships’ are inevitably superficial, and therefore more easily disposable as ZB points out. We have a fantasy that we are relating, but we are not relating in any meaningfully human way.

Yet FB can be brilliant. I keep in touch with friends all across the globe and hear snippets of what they are up to and how their family are. But its a broadcast medium, its not real communication. Its not intimacy. It’s only ‘real’ friendship when it links to real human relating – that is we actually meet! 

So, reading this I feel challenged to ‘dwell’ with my friends and family. To make time to be with them face to face. I may even switch off my phone!

(photo from the Guardian: https://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Society/Pix/pictures/2010/11/1/1288623051217/Zygmunt-Bauman-006.jpg)


the music is the star… Inside Llewyn Davis

InsideLlewynDavis PIC







I’m not sure why I love the Cohen brothers so much, but I do.  Their movies focus on a wide range of themes, the films range from the brutal (No Country for Old Men), the macabre/funny (Fargo), to the thoughtful ‘comedy’ (O Brother Where Art Thou) or off-beat  (Burn after Reading) – and see, I didn’t even mention ‘The Big Lebowski!’. 

I remember when I heard they were to do a new version of ’True Grit’ I thought, O dear… But what a brilliant movie.  No longer is Rooster Cogburn the one man hero, literraly John Wayne style.  Now we have a much more nuanced and real story, Matt Damon a revelation as the Texas Ranger.  Jeff Bridges (always amazing in Cohen Bros movies) is a much darker figure.  The real hero is Mattie Ross, the young girl – and her voice shines through – like your reading the book with the Cohen brothers helping you colour in some of the pages.  

But, whatever they do, they bring something of beauty, something of what it means to be human.  Without holywoodisation.  Reality is often painful, sometimes brutal.  And yet there is joy.  There is life.  We can identify with these people.  We are drawn in.

In their movies, they paint real people.  Often edgy, frail.  Caught up in their own ‘world’ yet desperate to be loved and appreciated, not knowing quite how.  People make mistakes.  People get in their own way.  People screw up.  People offer surprising acts of generosity.  People are incredibly self consumed.  You have the single minded driven, and those who just drift.  You have the desperate ones, and the genuinely loving. There is sadness, there is joy.  You cannot escape reality in the Cohen Brothers world.  There are no happy endings, in fact there are often no endings.  Life goes on.  

The last lines of Burn After reading has two CIA agents reviewing ‘the learning’ (censored language, sorry!)

[last lines]
CIA Superior: What did we learn, Palmer?
CIA Officer: I don’t know, sir.
CIA Superior: I don’t %*&$$’ know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir.
CIA Superior: I’m @$%&% if I know what we did.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir, it’s, uh, hard to say
CIA Superior: @&%    %$@%&    !@$@&%$.

As the ex WW1 tank commander and famous Psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion once said ‘Life is full of surprises, most of them unplesant’

So, what about ‘Inside Llewyn Davis?’  It is a beautiful movie.  A story of the creative drive, of what it means to be human.

It’s kind of an enima to an overly optimistic ‘all you need to do is focus on your dreams and it will happen’ mindset.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it is important to find out what I’m good at, what kind of contribution I want to make – but life is not so simple as the evangelical positive thinkers would preach.  it’s a if this has become the new secular religion.  And it’s better than calvanism eh?  You don’t have to feel bad about yourself with that old fashioned religion, just believe in yourself!  Now I’m going off piste … need to write about this in another setting for goodness sake, this is a movie review!

Where was I… O, yes, the movie.  On one level it’s a story about a struggling musician seeking to be true to his art.  He is penniless and laves a trail of fractured relationships as he couch surfs around New York in the early 1960’s.  This is a magical time for folk music – Dylan is about to appear, these are exciting times.  Yet the Cohen Bros choose to focus on a failing and struggling musician.  One who doesn’t quite make it.  His big break is playing session for a song he hates, and even then signs away his right to royalties because he needs cash.

Justin Timberlake is superb in the movie.  That made me realise another reason I love the Cohen Bros, they get ‘stars’ to really act rather than inhabit their own celebrity.  Brad Pitt in Burn after reading is the airhead gym instructor.  George Clooney sends his celebrity self up in ‘O Bother’ and ‘Intoerable Cruelty’

Llwyen experiences rejection.  He has to face himself.  He has to face the reality of his life not ‘working’ but even his attempts to ‘fix’ are doomed.  He ends up full circle.  It’s all about the music – the real star of the movie.

I know why I love the Cohen brothers.  They are master storytellers.  Don’t miss it, and see it at the DCA – ‘the sitting room of the City’ – you can take your drink in with you, relax and enjoy.


435421 inside llewyn davis inside llewyn davis wallpaper


A vote for independence is not a vote for the SNP


 Photo take in shopping Mall in Kuala Lumpur, May 2013 © Joe Lafferty

A few people have asked me since I got my photo taken with Nicola Sturgeon if I’ve joined the SNP. No, I haven’t joined the SNP! I do admire Nicola and think she is a formidable politician. And there are a number of SNP policies I have disagreed with, some very strongly.

I’m a businessman who works in Scotland and Internationally. I’ve never been a member any political party, and I’ve never been actively involved in any ‘political’ campaign in my life before.

My journey to yes has been a gradual one over the past 18 months. I intend to write about this in a separate article. But my point in this short post is to clarify what seems to be a common misunderstanding.

The misunderstanding? That if you vote YES you are voting for the SNP.  Let me make it clear – your vote in September is not a general election, or a Scottish parliament election. No party or party leader will be on the ballot paper – it is a simple choice. It’s your once in a lifetime opportunity to respond to a simple and yet profound question. Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?

Let’s imagine a YES…

for a moment, please indulge me…

The bickering stops. Now every Scottish based politician will be seeking Scotland’s interest, not the interests of their party HQ in London. Perhaps some London MPs will resign before ‘Independence Day’ to work in Scotland, perhaps others will stay in Westminster to help the transition.

There will be a seismic shift in Scottish Politics.

Labour will be free of the UK labour party. For many this will be traumatic, for others this will be liberating. How well Labour as a party manages this transition will be critical to their influence moving forward. I hope they manage this well. I for one would love to see people of the calibre of Douglas Alexander in the heart of Scottish Politics.

There will be a renaissance in Centre Right politics as the Tories will find their own Scottish Conservative voice. A voice that is different, distinct and relevant to Scotland. A number of my friends are Centre Right, and some of the courageous ones admit to voting Tory! I’ll be glad to hear this voice strong and clear in a Scottish Parliment. Annabel Goldie’s performance in the recent Question Time showed what a thoughtful and considerate politician she is.

New parties are likely to emerge, for example the Radical Independence Movement is a loose alignment of various left wing groupings. Which of these may flourish or align I wonder?

Young people are much more involved in the debate because of the referendum, a good number politically engaged when before they were apathetic or atheistic (as Russell Brand is) towards democracy. The National Collective group is very interesting – creative (mostly young) people for Scottish Independence have made being interested, engaged and active in politics cool.

What about the SNP? Will they disband as they have achieved their objective? I think this is unlikely. Politicians never like to let go of power! With the white paper the SNP have outlined their ‘manifesto’ – and hearing Nicola Sturgeon speak last night in Dundee, it seems clear to me that the SNP will seek to continue and occupy the Centre Left ground in a future Scottish Parliment. ‘The SNP is a broad church’ Nicola said last night, and she went on to say while she is centre left there are other centre right voices within the SNP. Her summary was that together the SNP is ’socially democratic’

Will they be able to hold this mix together over a long period of time? Who knows. I do wonder if difference will emerge downstream that will lead to defections and a fragmentation of what we know now as the SNP.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. Remember the SNP’s election victory in 2011? In a system that was DESIGNED to prevent an overall majority using PR, the SNP managed in 2011 to get an outright majority. How did that happen? Was that a vote for independence? No – for me, I voted SNP not out of support to Alex Salmond, but because of Labour’s poor track record…  I think this is common. And the SNP articulated a positive vision for Scotland, in sharp contrast to the other parties in the election. However, if there had been a referendum on independence on that day in 2011, I would have voted NO.

So, still playing with the idea we have a YES in 2014, in the election in 2106, I think it is highly unlikely the SNP will achieve the same kind of majority they have now. I imagine they will still be powerful because they have the momentum, and may seek to form a minority government, but they will have to balance out their policies along with other groupings in the Scottish Parliment. How the vote goes across all the parties (and no parties as there are a number of independents in the Scottish Parliament) will depend to a degree how effectively the ‘old’ parities of Tory and Labour are able to transition and realign post the YES vote.

Whatever happens, in 2016, we will get the Government WE vote for. So who will lead an independent Scotland? I guess that’s down to you and me, and the rest of the voting population of Scotland…

Our opportunity to create a fairer, more democratic and prosperous Scotland

I was one of the winners of the #14Zero competition run by Creative Stirling to summarise in a tweet your thoughts and feelings post independence.  The photo below shows the print of my winning tweet – the full 140 characters said…

a momentous choice
     without bloodshed or revolution
can we negotiate the fraught narrows of independence
     and enter the ocean of possibility

We are entering the ‘fraught narrows’ for sure – this debate is stirring lots of emotion – fear, passion, anger… and will continue to do so right up till the last moment… but, independence is not an end in itself, it is just a beginning…

It is our opportunity to create a fairer, more democratic and prosperous Scotland.

Post Independence Tweet Printed


Leading Change ‘Masterclass’

My colleague Tony Wells and I had the opportunity to engage the leaders taking part in the flagship Leadership Programme ‘Delivering The Future’ on Thursday 14th November.

Sketch of Joe & Tony

In our preparation for the ‘Masterclass’, we decided to make this an interactive workshop.  To work with the group to introduce them to my friend and colleague Peter Koestenbaum’s Leadership Diamond® as a key tool for helping them to Lead Change.  

The Leadership Diamond® is not the ‘answer’ – but it does help you create the right questions.

The session went down very well and the group quickly grasped the key elements of the Leadership Diamond® and were able to apply it to a personal leadership diagnostic.  To assess their leadership strength – what I can offer to support others, and their leadership ’stretch’ – what I need to pay attention to to improve my ability to lead change.

Tony also shared his ‘Leadership Journey,’ which was inspiring.  He also used the Leadership Diamond® to show why what he did was successful, and this ‘mapping’ not only brought the Diamond to life but showed it’s practicality and veracity.

We worked interactively with the group to do a ‘Diamond Diagnostic’ on some strategic issues the NHS is facing (no shortage in that list!) – and the power of the Leadership Diamond® as a diagnostic tool was evident.  

So, for us, a satisfactory day – people got the basics, but also were introduced to the possibility.

The beauty of the Leadership Diamond® is its simplicity.  Its power is its depth.

In planning for this session, I created a one page illustration mapping the whole day – which I include below.  Please note the Leadership Diamond® is © Peter Koestenbaum, and is used by permission.  Also, this graphic representation of the work is © Joe Lafferty.  These may not be reproduced without permission.



Breakthrough sometimes comes from unexpected places…

IMG_3894-Joe's Notes Page 1 of 7

Last weekend, I did a mounting and framing course at the DCA in Dundee.  It was a brilliant course, well taught by Lesley Kamel.

During the weekend, I decided to take visual notes of the training, and I tweeted a couple which some appreciated.  And, some of my fellow participants found the illustrated notes helpful so i thought I’d upload them onto Flickr using a Creative Commons licence so others could use them if they wish.

The link for the set is here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjLbvYkZ

The whole experience made me think about learning a new skill while honing an existing skill – integration.  In my work with leaders and leadership teams, I seek to simplify things as far as possible.  As Einstein said, ‘I like things to be as simple as possible, but no simpler.’   What struck me in taking my notes is how powerful a simple image is, along with clear, key words, to capture the essence of something.  And I often make visual notes like this when listening to a speaker.

I’m in the process of completing a very complex piece of work, and doing this illustration helped me a lot.

I had been writing reams and reams, and getting lost in the complexity of it all.  I needed a different approach.  What if I START with distilled visual notes like these?  That is the end result – clarity, clear flow, connections and interconnections.  Then work backwards to the report?

So thats what I’m doing.  I went back to the end to start!  I begun my report with an illustration.  I have been able to focus on the key vital elements of the work – which I’ve now translated to a mind map, which will become a document.

Never thought I’d learn that at a practical art class!


being in the moment

Had a great day with a client on Friday in the superb location of GOMA, the Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (Facebook). During a short break, I took some time to enjoy the setting. Then I noticed the man standing & looking, so I grabbed my iPhone & captured the moment.

As someone once said, the best camera is the one you have with you! And the iPhone 5 has now become my camera of choice unless I’m intentionally out to take photos & then I use my Canon 5D mk ii.


Photo (c) Joe Lafferty, all rights reserved. Taken with iPhone 5, convert red to B&W & slight grain & vignette added with snapseed iPhone app.


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the heron is a canny bird…


Took this photo while up in Oban for Fearghas and Natalie’s leaving ‘doo’ – a fantastic weekend, and stunning spring day in Oban this morning.  I grabbed this snap of a Heron, and it reminded me of James Robertsons amazing poem.


The heron is the cannie bird
  That wears the hodden grey,
And neither fykes nor fashes
  As he gangs aboot his day.

He stalks the lochs and rivers
  Wi his breeks abune his knees,
And his yella ee on somethin
  That nae ither craitur sees.

Aw that he kens wis kent lang syne
  Afore the warld wis auld,
When scaly beasts wi muckle horns
  Amang its forests crawled,

And through the steamin, sweltrie smirr,
  Oot ower the teemin braes,
His gash and ghaistly ancestor
  Gaed beatin through the haze.

The heron is an unco bird,
  Appearin like a wraith
Tae merk the passages o life
  And dip his heid at daith:

A hamely, steady kind o chiel,
  And doutless little worth;
But his wings beat like the beatin
  O the engine o the earth.


These poems and translations, written over the course of a decade, cross centuries, continents and cultures, transmitting signals and carrying echoes as they go. From the Old Testament to René Magritte, from Joni Mitchell to Saint Sebastian, from the slave trade to Wounded Knee, they explore the legacies of myth, legend, history and art, and articulate their findings in a rich and literate Scots that is both mindful of the past and ambitious for the future.

for this and other poems and purchase book see: https://www.kettillonia.co.uk/hemanheid.html


are SMART goals actually dumb?


Before you agree objectives with your team members, or set your own goals, worth reading the white paper from Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company in the USA.  Their research (4,182 workers from 397 organizations) has debunked the orthodox thinking that SMART goals are, well, smart!  On the contrary, they show that they limit thinking and keep us in our comfort zones.  This confirms my experience of the majority of performance management processes and systems I’ve come across.  

As W. Edwards Deming said many years ago, ‘Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.’  And as an HR Director said to me some years ago, ‘Our performance management systems are designed to create mediocrity.’

While I do have some reservations as to the zeal in their white paper, for example it takes more than good goal setting to achieve great things, what they have discovered is very interesting indeed.

They found the following eight ‘predictors’ as to whether ‘somebody’s goals were going to help them achieve great things.’  In order of importance:

  1. I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.
  2. I will have to learn new skills to achieve my assigned goals for this year.
  3. My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.
  4. I actively participated in creating my goals for this year.
  5. I have access to any formal training that I will need to accomplish my goals.
  6. My goals for this year will push me out of my comfort zone.
  7. My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me (customers, the community, etc.).
  8. My goals are aligned with the organization’s top priorities for this year.

Looking at this list, what struck me was how linked they are to the Gallup 12 Questions on what makes a great place to work and also work I’m developing with a new partner based in Denmark on Leadership Equity Assessment™  – a brilliantly simple tool for measuring team performance. More on this in a later post.  

Using these factors consider the human being, tap into imagination and hope, are grounded in reality, give full opportunity for engagement and involvement, and require the ability to leverage the polarity of challenge and support, and encourage us to make a contribution to something greater than ourselves.

This demands a leadership transformation.  If you are a leader, how about building these into the goal setting process with your team, and ask your associates use it with there teams?  If you are really courageous, you can even share it with your boss! 

Photo ‘Possibility’ taken at Tentsmuir Forest, Fife in December 2012, © Joe Lafferty, all rights reserved.


Dundee’s songsmith-Michael Marra Tribute

165988 michael marra

The sad news of Michael Marra’s death yesterday has stunned many.  He was a remarkable talent – not nearly as well known as he deserved, he shunned self promotion and the marketing machine which is so much part of the music ‘industry’ preferring to work on his own priorities, creating his own art.

He was a entertainer par excellence, but much more, he was a unique talent.  Not only a singer/songwriter of the highest caliber, he also created operas, musicals and plays.  I saw the re-run of his 20 year old play ‘A Wee Home From Home’ with Frank McConnell at Dundee Rep a while ago.  Still as cutting edge as the day it was made.  Marra’s ability to get into the Glasgow psyche demonstrated that his art, tho grounded in Dundee, was never parochial.  

He had a brilliant take on his home city of Dundee.  He was able to encapsulate Dundee’s history, tradition and strengths with a unique and honest voice.  Some of his songs must be impenetrable to people who don’t know the city – but he didn’t care about that!  He often gave long, humorous, rambling introductions to his songs, bringing his audience with him.

I remember him introducing a song about two dundee women boasting about their housing schemes, to paint the backdrop for a hilarious and warm human story sung with typical Marra-esque panache. And in ‘If Dundee Was Africa’ he goes round parts of the city giving them African nation status.  ‘If the Ferry was Mozambique, the Ferry would maybe seem no bad…’ And the back story – this was done to help a man who couldn’t read or write picture where North Africa was.  Of course, it was Lochee!

Michael worked with some young people in St John’s School in Dundee last year, coaching them on songwriting as part of the Dundee Wave of Change.  The young folks who had the opportunity to work with him were inspired by his approach and down to earth support.  He did this work for a (very small!) fee – why? because he cared.  He cared about Dundee.  He cared about young people having the opportunity to develop their talents and flourish.

I was trying to get some of his albums a few years ago, and a friend of mine from Dundee said that he would copy me some that were no longer available.  He had spoken to Michael about this and how should he pay for albums.  Michael told him to go ahead and copy them – just to give a donation to Amnesty International.  So, if you thoughts turn to Michel Marra, you can join me today and offer him the kind of tribute he would appreciate by making a donation to Amnesty.  Don’t copy the albums tho!  Some of his work is now available on line and you can download some of his albums here.

His called his song ‘Hermless‘ scotland’s alternative national anthem.  This brilliant, and typically understated song, is simply wonderful.  ‘I ging tae the library, I tak oot a book, then I gae hame fir ma tea.’

His acute observations were warm and human.  His unique blend of humour and wit, his insight into the human condition, and the courage to confront issues of injustice is in the highest tradition of art.  

Michel Marra was a unique voice.

Dundee has lost a son, Scotland one of its most quirky and significant creative voices, we are all the poorer for his passing.  My thoughts are with the family at this time.

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