Posts Tagged ‘team work’

Happiness: Is an Interesting Life More Important than a Happy Life?

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

I’ve been reading Penelope Trunk’s blog, and it fills me with so much food for thought that I don’t know quite what to think or where to start or how to proceed.

I like this a lot in life. I like to have so much to think about that it makes me feel as though the future is endless with possibilities. It gives me hope, and hope is one of the main things that keep us alive. And thoughts are like friends. When I was at university, I missed a lot of lectures, even though I was there in the room, because they were so interesting that they got me thinking!* Like a lot of my favourite bloggers, Sean Carmody, Penelope Trunk and Greg Savage for instance, I think I must be a fairly “promiscuous” thinker, since so many things seem so interesting and seem to have such relevance to the way we work and live our lives.

So, having got so much food for thought, I thought I’d just write about happiness (as if people haven’t been trying to define and understand the nature of happiness since writing and presumably conversation began!).

This is because of a number of reasons: I’ve been thinking about happiness and the role it plays in creativity, I’ve joined an optimism-based LinkedIn Group this week, which has got me thinking from a philosophical point of view, where one draws the line between an unrealistic, silly and superficial desire for un-relentless wishful thinking and positive thought and actual happiness and what it means (and whether I’m a negative thinker for thinking that wishful thinking might be silly – so vexed and such fun!), and, because since I majored in philosophy at university, I’m always trying to be a part of a philosophical tradition of understanding and attaining happiness anyway, especially the Platonic idea of seeking The Good.

I’ve just this minute read on an old post from Penelope’s blog that “New Yorkers think an interesting life is more important than a happy life”. More to think about like: Is there a difference between interesting and happy? Can you have a happy life without interest? Are contentment and serenity the same as happiness? Is happiness possible?

Philosophers have been studying happiness for thousands of years, and there is a whole branch of the more modern discipline of psychology which deals with the psychology of happiness, which indicates that the desire for happiness is at the core of human existence and drives.

In the workplace, much store has been placed lately on the engagement we feel with our jobs, and I suspect that engagement may well be central to happiness generally, not just in the workplace. Certainly, to be a part of something, the moment, a group, society, nature, a team, an intellectual position, or a family, is essential for me to be happy.

Writing a blog and thinking makes me happy. It makes me feel part of something larger, and less alone. It makes me feel engaged with other people and the world of work and ideas. And it makes me feel grateful that so many other people want to share their lives and experiences to help me shape mine.

* I defy you, for instance, to even read the chapter titles from my old teacher Professor Raoul Mortley’s publication From Word to Silence without getting totally lost in the possibilities before you even read anything!

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.

Inspired Workplaces: Sydney Trapeze School

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Since writing recently about the oyster farmers of the Manning River and their magnificent workplace, I’ve been thinking about other equally inspiring workplaces.

Our launch was held at Sydney Trapeze School a number of years ago, with a metaphorical wish to help our clients “fly”, and though on the surface, a trapeze school seems very different from a workplace psychology practice, we have had a close psychological connection to the school and have used it as a source of inspiration since we began.

Sydney Trapeze School operates from an historical, edgy and extremely stylish old factory, which still retains its enormous original gantry crane, in the grungy inner-city suburb of St Peters in Sydney. In an industrial and old working class suburb, STS is located in an old factory complex next to the train tracks, where these days a number of adventure and arts enterprises share the space with operating factories, workshops and industrial businesses.

The environment of Sydney Trapeze School is the first thing that makes it special, and inspirational. It is huge, lofty, and cathedral-like, and of course the flying trapeze rig and other circus apparatus makes it seem exotic and colourful. The juxtaposition of colourful circus paraphernalia with the industrial atmosphere of the original building makes you feel as though you are somewhere special and enthralling.

But in addition to the physical impact of STS, there is much more that makes it a very special place. Sydney Trapeze School was begun nearly three years ago by twin brothers Frank and Rob Taylor, whose enduring laid-back and casually friendly demeanour belies the inspiration and drive that must have been required to bring their dream to fruition, and make it the successful operation it is.

Flying Trapeze is a growing sport, recreation and fitness activity, because it combines a number of physical and mental challenges, including gymnastic skill, careful timing, tenacity, trust, teamwork, and personal mental and physical courage. Learning to fly on the flying trapeze is the kind of activity that helps people realise and generalise skills that are needed for all other aspects of a successful life. Because these skills, especially over-coming personal challenges and fears, are extremely relevant to the workplace, Sydney Trapeze School offers corporate workshops to work teams and organisations among its services.

At the end of every term, Sydney Trapeze School stages a performance, which showcases its students’ hard work. At the most recent show, based on a pirate theme, the completion of a huge mural was also celebrated. Local street artists, Tom McDonald and Peter Lloyd Jones were commissioned to paint a mural along almost the entire length of one wall, and the project took a year to complete.

With a teaching staff now of over a dozen, students from across Sydney, a secondary out-door rig for use in summer, and an Australia-wide reputation, the Taylor brothers have developed their business from the ground up into an impressively successful operation which still retains the friendly and inclusive atmosphere it began with.

It’s success and continuing growth is a testament to what can happen when you have clear vision, faith and tenacity.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.

King of the Manning River: Creativity & Problem Solving in the Workplace

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Two things in my psyche, a commitment to the important role of creativity, and a love of boats and the sea, converged this week in the form of a Manning River oyster farmer, Gary Ruprecht.

Through the week, I’ve been involved in a discussion on the Linked In Occupational and Organisational Psychologists Group, about the importance of creativity in the workplace (also see my previous post). At the same time, I’ve been re-floating my boat Aphrodite, formerly owned by Ronald Biggs, which I’ve written about before, and which decided to sink in shallow-ish water on the Manning River.

One of the hallmarks of creativity is the ability to solve problems. To solve problems consistently and well, one needs to have well-developed diverse thinking ability, because the first, second or third solution, and indeed the tried and true method, might not work. A creative person will think of many things, and continue to think of new things as the situation changes. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”. Creative people, according to some of the reading I’ve been doing, also tend to have a “never say die” attitude, which drives them to find alternative routes when the more obvious might not work.

When Aphrodite went down – probably because of a float switch failure – she tilted on the portside towards the deeper water, which meant that even at low tide, her portside gunwale (the top of the hull) was under water. Consequently, a normally fairly straightforward job of simply pumping her out at low tide wasn’t possible, because water would just flow in as fast as it was being pumped out. In addition, around Easter time we have very high tides on the Manning River, and this year they seem to have been exceptionally strong, so Aphrodite was deeper under and being pulled down more than you would normally expect.

This was a job for an expert problem solver, and despite very well-meaning offers of help from neighbours with boats, tractors, fire pumps, and impressive bravado, there was only one person I was prepared to trust to rescue my boat: Gary Ruprecht.

Gary is a third generation oyster farmer, and a fourth generation Manning River local. His German forbears settled on Mitchell’s Island, acquired land and farmed, and then took to the river to farm the famous Sydney Rock oysters. Both Gary’s sons have followed the family tradition and are also oyster farmers, and they have one of the most magnificent “offices” I know of.

Gary’s main piece of equipment is a huge and powerful flat-bottomed barge with an on-board crane, and he plies the Manning River on this boat with grace, confidence, enormous skill and not a little romance (of the river steamer by-gone days kind). After four generations, he knows the Manning River like the back of his hand. But it was as much for Gary’s talent and relish for problem solving, which I have witnessed and admired before, as for his skill and knowledge, that I asked him to rescue Aphrodite.

The operation went without a hitch really. I watched from the bank as Gary, my husband and a generous passer-by who offered his help, re-floated the boat and re-positioned her closer to shore, all in the space of a couple of hours. The process required some trial and error, creative thinking and experimentation, and the successful end result had as much to do with intelligence, creative thought and tenacity as it did with muscle, brawn, and exceptional seamanship.

Aphrodite is looking a little bit worse for wear, but nothing that time, hard work, some clean water and more tenacity can’t fix. Her ballast seems to have shifted so she’s tilting a bit, everything on board got a drenching and she’s muddy and dirty, but part of the joy of owning an old wooden boat is that it’s a constant and quite exciting adventure that pays enormous dividends in satisfaction, achievement, and yes, problem solving. (And who doesn’t love mud and saltwater!?).

Thank you Gary, Stephen and Jeremy. Here’s to creativity and problem solving, and expert applied knowledge in any workplace. I feel very grateful to have witnessed such impressive professional expertise, goodwill and thinking.

I think I’ll unofficially appoint Gary Ruprecht King of the Manning River.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.

Staying Afloat: Boats & Analogies

Friday, December 24th, 2010

I was inspired to get a boat by Virgin boss Richard Branson, when I read in his autobiography about the London canal boat he lived aboard, and later held meetings on. Holding meetings aboard a colourful old wooden boat sounds like a good idea to me, because I like the idea of making work as satisfying and rich as the rest of life, so that life becomes integrated and the “work-life balance” is almost completely imperceptible.

So I bought Great Train Robber Ronald Bigg’s old boat, Aphrodite, and had her transported to my sister’s property on Oxley Island in NSW, where she currently bobs away at the end of my sister’s jetty.

The only problem is, she’s on the Manning River, which is four hours drive north of Sydney, so I can’t really hold meetings there, although if you are up for a long drive, I’ll happily entertain you when you get there.

Instead of having meetings, I spend my days on board watching birds and dolphins, listening to the gentle sloshing of the water, restoring and repairing, writing, reading books, and thinking. I have never been in an atmosphere of such bliss and inspiration before in my life.

What I like most about my boat is the metaphor for life and work she provides. “Staying afloat” has a whole new literal meaning. And to literally, physically, face up to that challenge, through storms, rain, floods and wind is both humbling and cathartic. No matter how big my ego might get, no matter how smart I think I am, or how philosophical my thoughts and revelations might be, there is just no way I can ignore the simple truth of physics and the weather. If the boat gets a hole, if you don’t plug it, you’ll sink. If the pumps fail, and water builds up, you’ll sink. If there isn’t enough sun to keep the batteries that run the pumps going, you’ll sink.

Like King Canute, and the Dutch Boy who held his finger in the dyke, human beings and their egos cannot overcome physics, we just have to learn to live with it and manage it.

I find this constant lesson Aphrodite teaches me enormously helpful. We use lots of catch phrases in business and the general community, especially sports analogies, but to constantly face the challenge of keeping an old wooden boat afloat is to really understand the underlying literal meaning of the metaphors, and therefore what life is all about. It’s why some companies send their staff away to boot camps, or to climb mountains, or to fly on the trapeze – they believe that the physical challenge and hardship will make them generalize into other areas of life, particularly work, and help them to face up to challenges and learn to manage and over-come them, often by learning to work together in “teams”.

But I don’t have to do that, I just have to live aboard my boat for a few days.

While I wish I could invite you to meetings aboard Aphrodite, perhaps I have a better thing. Aphrodite provided a place for Ronald Biggs to hide out in Port Adelaide, but for me she provides a place to learn to stay afloat – literally and metaphorically.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.