I had a conversation with my Dad about education this week. He is a fan of the changes made by Gove, and of the view that we need to return to “proper” fact based learning. He says thing like “we can’t just look up everything on Google” and “Look at how much people on University Challenge know, we need more people like that”. Not all such conversations with my Dad end well but we managed to keep this one on an even keel and stay friends.

But it left me wondering why such conversations get to me. Those “young folks nowadays” type of conversations that belittle new ways of looking at things and advocate a return to an older world of order and rigour. It’s a bit like when Dennis Howlett gets all macho about “real business” and the need for tough business attitudes when he is having a rant about naive social enterprise bollocks.

They get to me because they are right. We need high standards and people who work hard to excel. We need rigour. I have been in high pressure operational jobs in broadcasting where you had to know complex engineering standards and stick to them. Keeping a lot of information in your head like that takes effort and matters.

They also get to me because they have the weight of convention behind them. It takes confidence to stick your neck out and break from the norm, to advocate new ideas and change the status quo. For most of us there is that nagging feeling that we might be wrong. Every time I write a post about the possibilities afforded by the web I think “Is this bollocks? Am I talking out my backside?”

We need both perspectives. We need order and repeatable processes but we also need flexibility and serendipity. We need structured and managed business data, but we also need messy and serendipitous online conversations. If we want innovation and change we can’t cling to old ways of doing things out of nostalgia. If they are no longer effective we should stop doing them.

The trick is achieving balance and managing the transition between the old and the new. We will only do this if both “sides” listen to each other and respect and value the alternative perspective. Sometimes my Dad and I manage this!

2 thoughts on “Rigour

  1. Great post Euan. I feel the same also with all the millennial talk. However, to me, social business talk isn’t about making things easier or taking difficulty from complex situations. It’s actually about taking the waste and red tape out of organizations and allowing people to focus and developing mastery in their chosen areas. Too often, organizations make learning impossible because the institutional processes get in the way of learning/working.

    Becoming a great SME, leader, strategist etc. takes years of practice and reflection. This isn’t anathema to newer organizational ideas – it actually is more in line with them. It’s far more effective and developmental than context-free fact based rote learning.

    Perhaps social marketing bollocks gets in the way too much and clouds the landscape of the potential for social enterprises?


    1. I totally agree! It is so frustrating when people dismiss something as a "nice to have" which I think is crucial to their survival. They will axe loads of people to get the numbers down but continue with the same old inefficient ways of working. And you are also right that it was the early hijacking of all things social that has made this harder.


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