May 2006

From Reuters.com

U.S. director John Cameron Mitchell, who has brought “Shortbus” to Cannes, agrees that young people are increasingly using the Internet to replace real sex.

In Shortbus, he has collected an ensemble of non-professional actors who engage in real on-screen sex and masturbation in an attempt to de-mystify the subject. He does not consider his film to be pornography.

“There are kids who have seen pornography from a very early age, before they are ever gonna have sex,” said Larry Clark, one of the directors of the eccentric “Destricted” — a compilation of explicit sex-centered stories.

In his own short film, Clark interviews young men about their sexual preferences and then allows one candidate to appear with his favorite porn-star.

“When I was a kid noone told me nothing. Now you can go onto the Internet and find out anything … (Young people) are looking at pornography and they are thinking that this is the way to have sex,” Clark said, noting his film was educational.

In a recent discussion amongst several male friends and I, several guys revealed they had found that younger girls (21-25 in 2006) behave like porn stars in bed.

It is not surprising really considering the saturation of porn into contemporary life.

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An interesting list of quality business books from 800 CEO Read.com

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Ten Tips for New Trainers/Teachers

by Limbic on May 17, 2006

Kathy Sierra’s superb post on Ten Tips for New Trainers/Teachers: “Ten Tips for New Trainers/Teachers”

is a must read for corporate trainers, consultants and coaches.

(Via Matt’s Idea Blog.)

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“The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern.” – “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath (p.64)

“In all my techniques, almost all, there is a confusion.” Milton H. Erickson, Master hypnotist and originator of the Pattern Interrupt.

“The quantity of information conveyed by a particular message as inversely proportional to the predictability of that message”. “Information Theory and Music” by David Huron

Summary: Use surprise or shock to embbed new behaviour, make a strong point or make information sticky (i.e. easy to remember)

One of my clients has a problem with Sales personnel bursting into their Call Centre to lobby technical support agents for priority attention to their favoured clients, friends or family.

People would storm in with mobile phones in hand shouting “We’ll get this sorted right now” as they rushed over to their favourite agent and begged for help.

Not only did this lobbying aggravate the existing atmosphere of chaos and disorder in the Call Centre but it pulled agents away from the agreed prioritisation methodology (in essence allowing Support triage to be done by lobbyists).

Agents were distracted from their core duties, sometime putting customers on hold to attend to their Sales colleagues.

The open house atmosphere also was violating the Support Department’s sense of territorial integrity which polls revealed was making some agents feel that were the dumping ground for the company’s problems. One agent complained that the Call Centre was “like the penalty box before a corner”.

The problem was complicated by several hidden factors. The lobbying activity provided subtle but powerful benefits to all parties involved in the interaction. These benefits reinforced the unwanted behaviour and were directly linked to core motivators stimulating both the support agents and the Sales staff.

For those outside the Support department, the benefits were obvious.

Lobbying got their problems solved much more quickly than following formal processes.

Lobbyists earned kudos with clients and affiliates by demonstrating their power to get priority assistance.

Additionally, this sort power and privilege is understood by most as being a tacit benefits of being on the staff. We did not want to discourage that.

Our mission was to discoverer:-

  • Why the Support Agents were complaining about the lobbying, yet doing nothing to help discourage it.
  • How we could convince the staff lobbyists to change how they lobbied (i.e. stop visiting in person).
  • How we could keep the benefits from staff lobbying but lessen the disruption, chaos and disorder.

According to Harvard Management Update, there are “three sets of goals that the great majority of workers seek from their work”. These are:

  • Equity – To be respected and to be treated fairly in areas such as pay, benefits, and job security.
  • Achievement – To be proud of one’s job, accomplishments, and employer.
  • Camaraderie – To have good, productive relationships with fellow employees.

Inadvertently, informal lobbyists were strongly satisfying all of these motivations in Support staff even though their interruptions were denounced as irritating and unacceptable.

Let us look at these three key motivators and see how they applied to this problem of staff interrupting the Call Centre agents to lobby.

Equity

There is glory in rescue and Support agents thrive on it.

Support agents enjoy, no, love helping their colleagues. Their knowledge and know-how earn them respect and admiration. Their heroics make them feel popular and useful.

Their busy and chaotic environment is seen (by them) as evidence of their hard work and a demonstration their importance in keeping the operation going.

Achievement

As previously mentioned, agents feel powerful and useful when helping colleagues. This is partly because of the immediate positive reinforcement of praise from delighted and relieved peers. This sort of praise is very rare in a troubled operation.
In the marketplace of affect, the smile and pat on the back from a colleague has much more value than a sterile metric and or even praise that has to be shared by the whole team.

Recognition of the agents achievement is immediate and the social capital they earn belongs entirely to them.

The intoxication of immediate positive feedback completely trumps the rewards of dealing with customers.

Supporting colleagues is emotionally very satisfying. To agents it is exactly what they feel support should be all about: Excitement, collaborative problem solving, praise, being useful, having purpose and success.

Camaraderie

Informal favour trading has an undeniable positive impact on inter-departmental camaraderie. It can help cement informal inter-departmental relationship and friendships.Then again, so can smoking.

The problem is that lobbying fosters exactly the wrong sort of camaraderie. It fosters links between individuals at the expense of team unity.

People form alliances with perceived competent individuals leading to the dreaded “personality support”.

You know you have a problem with personality support when you hear comments like “Ask for X, she is the only one with a brain down there” or customers insist on dealing with favoured agents or mails come in “For the attention of X”.

In our situation the Support agents were individually very popular even though the team was routinely criticized for service failures and blamed for the company’s poor reputation.

Lack of collective pride and poor leadership led to a situation where agents gave up on being team players and accepted whatever personal glory they could accrue.

The Failed Solution

The Support Manager sent a company wide e-mail asking politely that staff keep visits to the Call Centre to an absolute minimum.

She explained that agents were having trouble hearing customers because of ambient noise.

She also noted that action requests were tightly controlled in the Support process and that lobbying disrupted this process by forcing “top priority by virtue of presence”.

The e-mail went on to explain at length the reasons why it was better for staff to e-mail support or even call the support line rather than attend in person.

It was ignored.

A poster was put on the Call Centre door requesting that people please e-mail or call unless absolutely neccesary.

It was ignored.

It was time for some Combat Consultancy.

The Solution that seems to be working

We were contending with deeply ingrained habits. Lobbyists were persuing a perfectly rational strategy that had high yield for no cost.

Support agents were also reinforcing the behaviour because even though the interruptions had high operational costs to the performance of the team, it was often highly rewarding for individuals.

Where teamwork and intra-team camaraderie breaks down, praise and recognition from co-workers can became a powerful, if hidden, motivator.

We had to disrupt learned responses, reinforced over year and compounded by lack of mindfulness all imbeded in a culture of resistance to all change.

We needed to start with an interrupt. Something that would break the cycle and force attention – the lobbyists attention – onto our instruction message for them.

Of course you have guessed our interrupt: We locked the door.

We installed a swipe card system on the Support Centre door that was linked to the company’s main entry control system. Support staff , coffee ladies, cleaners and senior managers have access. Anyone cannot get in unless they are escorted. The entire Call Centre operations room was redesignated a secure area (like server rooms and equipment stores.) unauthorised access was strictly forbidden. Problem solved…or was it?

This simple interrupt was extremely effective.

Once we disrupted the automatic behaviours, we could introduce introduce the message:

This is restricted area
Agents are conducting live telephone diagnostic interviews with customers.
If you have a query, please call the Priority Support Line on XXXXXX
Or e-mail priority_support@[domain]

We had blocked the Support Centre, but what was the cost to both the agents sense of equity, camaraderie and achievement?

To compensate the lobbyists and encourage their compliance as well as maintain the morale of Support Agents we:

  1. Created a special queue for staff requests with a 10 minute response SLA.
  2. Set up a priority Support number for staff to call for phone support.
  3. We installed a Jabber server to enable secure instant messaging as well as company chat rooms and conferences on for collaborative problem solving.
  4. We set up a staff equity program where staff who are highly active (raising many tickets) are rewarded for their services to customers (interceding on their behalf, lobbying for them, ensuring their needs are met). This is the attitude we want all staff to have to all customers.

The effects of these changes have been strikingly positive:

  1. The Call Centre is quieter and calmer
  2. Most action requests are all coming through measured channels (phone, ticketing system)
  3. There has been an improvement in all areas (e.g. response times, resolution times, customer satisfaction)
  4. Informal request now come in via Instant Message, which allows the agents to greater control (ignore, set status as unavailable etc.)
  5. Staff now socialise much more in common areas (canteen) and there has been an increase in extra-professional socialising.
  6. Constructive criticism is now being submitted in a usable to form to managers who can address the criticisms.
  7. Agents now believe that their status and importance has finally been respected which has boosted their morale significantly.
  8. Sales agents report significantly improved satisfaction with the Support department as a whole.

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From THE PARADIGM IS THE ENEMY: The State of the Peak Oil Movement at the Cusp of Collapse

As a matter of necessity, in the course of a turbulent and often very difficult life, I have developed a pretty warped sense of humor. As most police officers, nurses, ER doctors, paramedics, and military combat veterans know, the best time to find humor is when things are at their worst. Sometimes the humor that emerges from these situations is strange, to say the least. And yet sometimes it remains the most memorable humor of a lifetime—humor that can actually sustain you in tough times. Humor is energy.

Too often Peak Oil activism reminds me of a statement that I found a long time ago in a book of famous quotations. In the section containing the last recorded words of famous people I found a quote that has stayed with me ever since.

The quote was simply, “We’ve got them now.”

The person who wrote those last “recorded” words on a dispatch to his commanding officer, General George Crook, was George Armstrong Custer.

Please read on. MUST READ

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The UK Interdependence Report published

by Limbic on May 10, 2006

From Transition Culture

The UK Interdependence Report: How the world sustains the nation’s lifestyles and the price it pays by Andrew Simms, Dan Moran and Peter Chowla has just been published, and is essential reading for those of us promoting localised responses to peak oil. Produced by the excellent New Economics Foundation, it builds on the concept of ‘Ecological Debt’, as outlined in Andrew Simms’ book of the same name. The concept of ecological debt is straightforward. Once we start to live beyond our ecological footprint, we require the resources of other nations in order to sustain our lifestyles. It is a nonsense, Simms argued in ‘Ecological Debt’, to talk of third world debt, really we in the developed West have so plundered these nations for so long that we actually owe them the most enormous debt.

The report is easy to read and packed with useful ‘ammunition’ for those arguing for localisation. The authors calculate that the ecological footprint of the UK is 3.1 Earths, and say that if this is seen as a year, then the date when we exceed our ecological footprint and begin to live on ecological debt is April 16th, the day they call ecological debt day. The main focus of the report is exploring the concept of ‘ecological debt’ in relation to various aspects of life.

Firstly they look at food, and how the UK’s degree of self sufficiency in food has been declining since the mid-1990s. Domestic production, they argue, is now at its lowest point for 50 years, leading to an unhealthy degree of dependency on cheap imports. They also identify the incredibly wasteful and ridiculous way this dependency manifests. They discuss what the call the phenomena of “lorries passing in the night”, that is food being transported around the world for now obvious reason.

…You can download it here or buy printed copies here.

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How to find Lost Objects

by Limbic on May 9, 2006

Based on Professor Solomon’s Twelve Principles.

My method is based on what I call the Twelve Principles—a set of precepts designed to lead you directly to any lost object. Like a bloodhound!

The Twelve Principles are:

1. Don’t Look for It
2. It’s Not Lost—You Are
3. Remember the Three C’s
4. It’s Where It’s Supposed to Be
5. Domestic Drift
6. You’re Looking Right at It
7. The Camouflage Effect
8. Think Back
9. Look Once, Look Well
10. The Eureka Zone
11. Tail Thyself
12. It Wasn’t You

Free e-book.

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Oil Age Poster

by Limbic on May 9, 2006

From OilPoster.org

“Colorful and authoritative, this poster traces the history of the Oil Age from its beginnings in the hills of western Pennsylvania in 1859 to its rise as the engine of global industrial economies. The poster’s main chart features a year-by-year rendering of worldwide oil production from 1859 to 2050 with projections of future production based on Colin Campbell’s Oil Depletion Model. Historical annotations as well as detailed data on production, trade and reserves make this poster a versatile tool for presenting the realities and implications of global oil production and its impending peak. “

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The False Accusation Fallacy

by Limbic on May 8, 2006

In response to this post on the Mind The Gap blog, I wrote this:

You need to bring yourself up to date with the facts.

The false accusation rate is at least 26% in the US, but more likely 40%. This is an absolute certainty based on DNA evidence. It may be much much higher. In New Zealand for example the estimated false accusation rate rate is over 80%. Whilst blowers in the justice system have tried to draw attention to the problem.

The point is that false rape accusations are a massive problem in the fight against real rape.

The problem stems from political actions which have made false accusations worthwhile – namely removing anonymity for men accused of rape in 1987.

We see in the UK that since 1985 rape convictions in real terms have risen 28% , whilst accusation, mostly date rape, have rocketed by circa 400% (since anonymity for the accused was removed in 1987).

Prior to 1987, the accusation rate was stable and growing slowly (thanks to victim encouragement efforts and improved police methods). After 1987 it exploded.

Kevin Myers argues persuasively in 2003 that “Malicious accusers are as bad as rapists“.

I agree with him.

If you really cared about rape victims, you MUST care about false accusers. They are one of the biggest problems for those fighting rape.

Lets solve the problem quickly by restoring full anonymity for rape accused and punishing hoaxers severely.

Furthermore, you ought to care about the hundreds if not thousands of innocent men who have been falsely accused and in several cases convicted.

Our justice systems is rightly based on protecting the innocent, not punishing the guilty.

“Better 100 guilty men at liberty than one innocent man in prison” has become “Rather hundreds of innocent men in prison…”

For what?

So that rape victims feelings are not hurt?

So that the newspapers have a juicy story?

So that women can keep the kids, launch a lawsuit, avenge an injury, avoid being called a slut?

Are you serious?

Real rape victims are having their cases share police and court resources with thousands of liars whilst innocent men go to prison all thanks to false accusations.

Where is the fallacy?

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They’re Made Out of Meat

by Limbic on May 5, 2006

From BoingBoing :

A short-film adaptation of science fiction author Terry Bisson’s short story “They’re Made Out of Meat.” Directed by Stepehn O’Reagan, and starring Tom Noonan (The X-Files, Robocop 2) and New York standup Ben Bailey, it won grand prize at the Science Fiction Museum’s First Annual Short Film Festival.

“They’re made out of meat.”

“Meat?”

“Meat. They’re made out of meat.”

“Meat?”

“There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.”

“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?”

“They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.”

“So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.”

“They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.”

Link, Link to text of story

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