Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

1971 – Ping Pong Diplomacy

In General Mish-Mash, Quick Mish-Mash, Uncategorized on November 23, 2011 at 6:09 pm

In 1971 the term Ping Pong Diplomacy (or Table Tennis Diplomacy) was coined. At the centre of one of the key events that led to this term was a US Table Tennis player by the name of Glenn Cowan – evidence has emerged that this could in fact be a hybrid name taken from 2 influential Australian table tennis players from Penrith NSW.

The evidence is in a film recently excavated from official archives. The film is from 1971 and was taken at the Cowan residence in Penrith. To be precise: 138 Station Street, Penrith – unfortunately this heritage location has been destroyed and is now the carpark for a shopping centre called Nepean Square.

In this film you’ll see some of the key Penrith-based personnel involved in the diplomatic effort … late in the film a curious interloper drops in to disrupt proceedings.

The film features Glen (one “n” only) Davidson and  Max Cowan (the curious interloper is Phil Cowan) – and so the legend of Glenn (extra “n” added by the CIA) Cowan. There is also Mick Talve (I think he prefers Michael these days) and Noel Coughlan both of whose contribution to this this pivotal event in Sino-American relations are clearly of such importance it remains a closely guarded secret to this day.

(It is left to the viewer to determine the order appearance.)

Now, 1971 was year full of events – a list too long and important for legitimate truncation. But this rare and historical footage is of one of the most seminal events of that year.

Less than a year after this game Mao Zedong and Richard Nixon were shaking hands in Beijing.

What more can I say …

The Long Walk – Chapter 100, Freedom

In Mish-Mash of Books, Uncategorized on July 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Last night I reached Chapter 100 of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom – it is the freedom chapter, February 1990.

11 February 1990 – Nelson Mandela release after more than 27 years in prison.

It is a big book about big events and big issues … but it is has a quiet, calm tone. A tone that is nevertheless resolute and shows the strength of personal belief, principles, and integrity. There is much to discover between its covers – certainly plenty that is of historical significance. More importantly about human-ness.

One attribute that stands out is his [Mandela’s] recognition that even those who have the most despotic and anti-human behaviours nevertheless retain a core of humanity. It may be deep and difficult to see … but it is there.

I get the sense that Mandela sees almost all human failings as being a product of the system within which they have to work and live. He certainly believes it about those who are the workhorses of the system, those in the lower ranks of the system.

One of his jailers, Piet Badenhorst, had behaviours that were cruel and sadistic. Mandela describes him as being the “most callous and barbaric commanding officer we had had on Robben Island”. When it came time for Badenhorst to depart Robben Island, he showed Mandela a level of empathy and understanding that was surprising.

Mandela concludes:

Ultimately … his [Badenhorst’s] inhumanity was foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behaviour.

It is a thought that is not unique or illuminating, but it is one we need to keep in mind.

It does raise a couple of questions for me:

How does a system that diminishes humanity become entrenched? Is it the leader that is responsible? Or the people being led?

And, how do some people, rise above the system?

Thinking about systems and structures and the impact they have on behaviours always brings to mind the youthful but sophisticated poem/song from Bob Dylan – about the shooting of Medgar EversOnly A Pawn In Their Game.

There are plenty who dispute the facts used by Dylan for this song. What cannot be disputed is the potent imagery and poetic analysis of a society’s system and the impact it has on individual action and behaviour.

The deputy sherriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Medgar Evers – being arrested, 11 days later he was shot in front of his home.

Now, this is a challenge for the sensible …

In Mish-Mash of Wisdoms, Uncategorized on July 10, 2011 at 4:45 pm

JIm Morrision, on The Doors’ The Soft Parade, a voice growing in sarcasm & ridicule, repeating the thought that you can “petition the lord with prayer” finally stops dead, silence … and then a full blooded scream of rage …

“You CANNOT petition the Lord with prayer!!!”  

Jim Morrison

The truth of Morrison’s rage cannot be tested by me or probably by you.

And there are millions upon millions, perhaps billions, who pray daily. Many believe they are praying to a “lord” of some description. And many have an adamant belief that their prayer is heard – even when their petition is (seemingly) ignored.

Is there any right and wrong in how you perceive prayer? Do we cower to Jim’s rant or revere the soft supplications of the many?

God knows! (he he he)

What follows may be disappointing to you, fair reader. If you have read this far you may be looking for some irreverence or perhaps a deep insight, revelations of the very core of meaning in life. No! (But if you want that can I recommend you go to Leonard Cohen’s Live in London, put on Tower of Song and listen right through to the very end … Dah Doo Dum …)

Leonard Cohen

No, my thinking about Jim’s rant was triggered by something far more pragmatic and profane.

The pragmatic – the concept of customer loyalty. Well, … any type of loyalty.

The profane – the anger that comes from the disintegration of such a noble concept as loyalty.

You see, in thinking about loyalty, I felt like screaming in Morrison-like anger, sarcasm, & ridicule:

You CANNOT petition loyalty by demand!!!

You CANNOT earn loyalty with payment!!!

You CANNOT be gifted loyalty when you offer reward!!!

With all three you may get behaviours that may look like loyalty, feel like loyalty … but, in most cases, are not loyalty. They are obedience, compliance, or a simple transaction

That feeling of frustration, that sense of something noble and valuable disintegrating behind the rattle of an demand, or the tinkle of a coin … that was how I got to thinking of Morrison’s scream. To me, Morrison is saying much the same thing – the act of praying is far too sacred and precious to be diminished by the act of petitioning.

But, this thought about loyalty also led me to a prayer. A prayer seemingly “petitioning the Lord” but really requiring individual growth, integrity, and responsibility. A prayer that contains (IMO) immense wisdom, and is spoken by millions around the world every night.

I was reminded of it recently when it was listed as the favourite quotation in the Facebook profile of a good mate of mine.

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

How could this connect with pursuit of customer loyalty … well, I will come back to that another time. Meanwhile, it is at least worth of some thinking.

Who knows, think enough, and standing next to Sun Tzu on podiums of business philosophy, you may see the author of the The Serenity Prayer – whether it be Aquinas, St Francis, Cicero, St Augustine, Reinhold Neibuhr … or whoever.

Niebuhr - Serenity Prayer Author.

Now, wasn’t that a mish-mash.

AFL, NRL, Western Sydney – War?? What is it good for?

In Mish-Mash of Wisdoms, Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

Last night on the news I saw Graham Annesley (ex NRL COO, current NSW Minister for Sport) handballing a Sherrin to Andrew Demetriou – part of the AFL’s announcement that one of its premium events – the Draft – will be held in Western Sydney, backyard of their newest franchise, The GWS Giants.

An image full of irony.

Demetriou & Annesley - Partners in an Ironic Dance

There has been much talk for some time about the war (or imminent war) between AFL & NRL over Western Sydney. Phil Gould, Penrith Panthers RL GM is reported to be trying to spark the NRL into military action against the southern insurgents. I even saw on one forum some Panthers fans up in arms about the fact their local newspaper devoted their front page to a story about the Penrith Rams Aussie Rules team.

The battle, I guess is a distraction and the subject is a fairly emotive point of discussion … at least for NRL supporters. The AFL nor its fans and supporters seem to be talking about “war”, they seem to be focussing on how they can make things work better for them.

I think the AFL would be happy the NRL, its clubs, and NRL strategists, feel they are in a war. While they strategise about what they should do to combat the AFL,  the AFL strategises about how they can do things better.

The question is where will this “war” take us (us=RL) – my guess is that, if “war” really is the driver of either the clubs or the leagues, then it will use up a lot of resources for very little benefit to anyone. War implies a focus and attention on your opponent. That sort of focus in business can be disastrous.

The most recent war for Rugby League was the civil war. It started in 1995 and, 16 years leter, the scars have not healed.

Imagine what a great position the game would be in if the (in excess of) $1b spent during that war had have been spent on improving the game, its administration, its grass roots, its strategic position, its standing and profile. Imagine the state of our game now if Packer, Arthurson,, Murdoch, Ribot, and all the other players had sat down and said lets work out where we all want to be in 10 years time (or 20 or 50) and then design a pathway to that goal.

But, they each focused on the other!!! When they should have focussed on the game!

The moment your focus becomes your opponent, and your intent becomes destructive, that is the very moment you should be doing a bit of self-examination and looking at what you can do to improve yourself (irrespective of there being any opposition.)

Interestingly enough, it seems to me that it is the NRL who see themselves at war (or that war is imminent). They see themseleves as being invaded and think its is time to defend their turf. Well boys, guess what???

You are too late!

The invasion has happened and the only way you can win the so-called war is to improve yourself. Not one solitary cent should be spent with the intention of disarming or destroying the other side.

The AFL seem happy to co-exist, to acknowledge the value and position of Rugby League. They even had some of their players pay homage to the Blues in State of Origin – some may see this as somehow devious but the fact is that it did, and does, pay respect to the premium NRL event. I doubt the NRL would ever allow their players to make such a complimentary gesture.

My god, even the choice of colour and jersey design for GWS was a huge compliment to Wests Tigers. It paid great homage to Wests Tigers – it makes an inference that those colours, those brand elements, that belong to Wests Tigers best represent Western Sydney. What an opportunity for Wests Tigers to leverage. What could come from a strategic relationship between Wests Tigers &  GWS? A partnership aimed at strengthening the Western Sydney sporting, cultural, and economic juggernaut. And, simultaneously building and deepening their own influence in the region.

Working together with GWS those Wests Tigers colours would be identifiably Western Sydney in less than a generation. And it would be difficult for that to happen without GWS, perhaps impossible.

So, in typical NRL fashion, The Wests Tigers blew up and threatened legal action. Just as Packer, Arthurson, Piggins etc blew up when Murdoch entered the equation in 1995 – opportunity lost.

My first thought at Penrith was to approach GWS and work out ways we could work together to make Western Sydney a stronger region, but there were some internal barriers. Parramatta could also work them in constructive ways. But the opportunity for Wests Tigers was (and is) much bigger.

Nah! I am afraid the NRL boys haven’t learnt a great deal and are looking to throw more money in a war. And worse, they have identified the wrong enemy … who is the real enemy? Well, I might broach that question another time.

Opportunities or Obstacles

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Today I was happily (?) strolling down George St, Sydney and I was accosted. Accosted by words screaming at me … up to 85% off. Generally this sort of sign has no effect on me – except when behind the screaming words is either a bookshop or a cd/dvd outlet.

This time it was Dymocks! Not my fav bookshop in Sydney but the chances were I might be able to find something of interest on sale.

I managed to walk out with 3 new volumes to help squeeze me out of my already confined work space at home. 3 new volumes to render the inevitable questions about book collection.

Why? Why do it? Why buy more books? You haven’t read all the books you have, you never will!!!

Fortunately, I have gleaned a new answer to this – for which I have to thank Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  His book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is amongst the partially read volumes of my library.

Click the swan to find out a bit more of Taleb's Black Swan theory

Part One of Taleb’s book has the heading Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary, or How We Seek Validation.

Taleb’s assertion is that Eco’s very large personal library (some 30,000 volumes) is not an “ego boosting appendage but a research tool”.

The unread books are hosts to the surprise of what we don’t know, the potential subversives to what we think we know, and the positively confrontational for those things we know that we know (but we are wrong!!).

The unread books form the antilibrary. It is has far greater value and opportunity than the library (the books that have been consumed). And as I get older and wiser – the antilibrary simply grows in size, in stature, and in value. The one thing about which I can have certainty about is the knowledge that within the antilibrary is the antidote to any arrogance I may hold about what I “know with certainty”.

So, today I have added 3 volumes to my antilibrary and each of them has the potential to completely upset and revolutionise my current outlook. What a magnificent purchase – especially at the markdown price!!  (For the record: I spent $AU20 marked down from $AU155.)

Here are the books I bought:

Told: The Art of Story by Simon Aboud

Consumer Behaviour by Haydn Noel

Tommy’s War: The Diaries of a Wartime Nobody by Thomas Livingstone

And look at the prices of these on Amazon, makes me realise that:

– books are expensive in Australia!

– I am not so good at finding bargains!

Building Social Business

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm

This article was published in the May 2011 edition of club life: , the monthly magazine produced by ClubsNSW.

The article delves into the increasing levels of scepticism about NSW Registered Clubs. There is a lesson for all companies in this – the lesson is about ensuring corporate behaviour is congruent to the expressed values & purpose of the corporation. The body language of an organisation is the tell-tale sign for the consumer.

Bulding Social Businesses

Wond’rin if we’ve changed at all …

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Look at this excerpt from a 1978 interview with Bob Dylan while he was in Australia.

Rock Express: What do you think characterises the Australian that you know?

Bob Dylan: Well, in Brisbane, I noticed that everybody has a great ability to laugh.

RE: What about elsewhere?

BD: Elsewhere I find it … it’s very …[pause] … I don’t think it is a place for explorers.

RE: You mean you don’t consider it a land for explorers because there isn’t much to discover?

BD: No, I find you have to have permission for everything.

RE: Creatively?

BD: No, just a general feeling in the air, I can’t explain it. It’s like a feeling when all the windows are closed and you can’t open them.

A pretty astute observation about Australia circa 1978, don’t you think? But what about now? Have we changed or are we still hampered by a need for compliance and permission?