Writing to the dark

The questions weren’t interesting but I worked hard to find the interest in them Clem Bowles, Little Boxes I went dark because I didn’t know where I belonged or where I was going, and I had nowhere to direct the words. Bonnie Stewart, The long dark tea-time of the soul It’s been a week for noticing the stories that get told in higher education about satisfaction. How do students feel about the experience of being students, and how do they look…

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The peacock and the fish

That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct. Solomon Asch, Opinions & Social Pressure, 1955 1. It’s been a week of sitting and thinking as the presentations slide by. University strategic planning is a bit like a lava lamp: ideas rise…

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All the routine jobs

All the routine jobs will eventually be replaced. Someone talking on the radio one morning 1 It’s the morning routine. I’m driving to work, and thinking about my job, and all around me are the people doing their jobs as I’m on my way to mine. Right there in the morning traffic, there are two men laying out bollards in a row, because something’s up and today’s the day. And beyond that the freeway and all its stuff that’s only there…

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Shared values

It happened because our corporate policies were put ahead of our shared values. Oscar Munoz, United Airlines CEO It happened: a passenger hauled by his arms from a plane to enable airline staff to get from airport to airport. His reaction to being grabbed out of his seat seemed to take everyone by surprise, and from the moment he refused to go along with things, every mistake was made. He was physically harmed, mentally harmed, and then further abused by media and social media investigations…

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Making kin

A purpose built hospital can be an act of kindness. The politician spoke about a hospital she visited in Oslo that was built with the intention of making everyone there feel good to be a part of it. Lea McInerney, ‘Join the Gathering of Kindness in Creating a Better Healthcare System‘ A couple of months ago I was included in a two day event designed to create a better vision for Australian healthcare, that is safer for patients and offers a more…

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Heresy and kindness

There’s too much to do in too little time with too little money to be world-class in everything we do. What we can and should do is recognise the limits of what’s possible and encourage people to do their best – and I don’t just mean that managers need to do better. We all need a little more humanity. The Plashing Vole, Good enough Here’s a tale. When I first started thinking about how to write in public about the…

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Unleashed

As international mobility increases, competition for the best academic and professional staff will also intensify. This is why we’re unleashing our staff’s performance, reducing complexity and optimising professional achievements. This week the university that employs me released its new Strategic Plan with accompanying changes to our brand identity, vocabulary and collateral. Tucked into this bundle is a video that I can’t stop watching. There are images and sounds I genuinely don’t understand, and a faintly audible sigh about halfway through. (What…

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In Palo Alto

1. I’m still in Palo Alto, and I’m none the wiser about the street sign program that asks locals to look up and think about the meaning of their city.*  I’ve now found eight different examples, and they’ve started to take on an anxious tone. The whole place feels like it’s worrying about something. Would you say that things in your city are better or worse than they used to be? Do you ever find yourself longing for “the good…

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The stitches of the day

I sewed once a day, keeping a record of when I worked and marking the breaks between each session. While it is evident where one session ends and another begins, I took care to tie the thread or hair from the stitches of one day to the stitches of the next, so that the line is continuous. The result is an image of my commitment and the time that has passed. Maria T D Inocencio, ‘In and out of time’…

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Making change

So why are most universities monolithic, conservative, bureaucratic and resistant to change? F. M. Cornford’s splendid little monograph Microcosmographia Academica (1908) examines the “enemy of inertia” and finds that “there is only one argument for doing something; the rest are arguments for doing nothing”. While change is theoretically deemed to be a “good thing” by “change managers” – commonly known as vice-chancellors and deputy vice-chancellors – those managers often encounter resistance from ordinary academics. Steve Olivier, ‘How to manage rapid change‘ Ordinary…

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