Thursday, 7 December 2006

Chomping at the bit I've placed in my own mouth. I'm the rider and the horse here. So where shall we go? Feels like it's time to hoik the ideas out of the ether into a material form. Also time to really engage in conversation with others in the lab.
Yesterday's conference call with Warren, Kenton and Clare has stirred up some thoughts, clarified some things, and injected some energy. I haven't introduced them to you before - partly because I'm trying, as far as possible, to keep specific others out of this public display of my thoughts. But they are my main contacts/managers/advisors on this placement. Warren is from HP Labs, India, although he's currently in Beijing setting up a Lab there. Kenton is from HP Labs, Bristol and has run a number of these collaborative placements there. And Clare is the Project Manager based at Watershed Media Centre in Bristol.

Communication is emerging as the key issue. It became clear that I need to make a precise and transparent plan of action. (The TLA is not POA but SOW.) Chendana asked me for an SOW yesterday and I thought I was pretty quick on the uptake, though the fact that she should think I knew what on earth she was talking about is interesting. A month or two ago I felt an idiot when I had to ask in a meeting what a BPO was.
TLA's seem to be more numerous in Bangalore than nano-particulate airborne pollutants.
I'm thinking of making some alphabet soup. Or maybe alphabet jilipi would be nice.
Anyway here's a good description of an SOW. I'm realizing what a touching departure it is from standard business practice for me to write my own statement. My hosts/bosses(?) are prepared to be very open about what my purpose might be.
While feeling like I really must get on with my work at HP I've been running around all morning sorting out doctors and medicines for my wife who has not been well for the last few days. Meanwhile I've been getting frustrated with other people who seem not to do much except a brilliant impression of Harry Enfield's 'Ooh! You don't want to do that' character.

Started me off on a train of thought to do with how, in all sorts of harboured resentments and actual arguments, whether domestic or foreign, it's so difficult to see things from the other party's point of view. And yet everyone behaves as sensibly as they can. Even the liar and the thief and are simply acting in the best way they can under the circumstances as they see them. There is simply no point in trying to force my point of view since I will simply be fitted into the other's worldview in whatever distorted way, and then reacted to accordingly.

Much more constructive would be for me to just try to understand their viewpoint. And this exercise can become fascinating in itself. It's so difficult when I am being attacked of course, but then that's also when I have the most to gain by trying to understand. Someone who seems slothful, demanding and critical to me now may in fact feel that that they are at last having the well-earned rest they looked forward to, and worked so hard for.

How to convince someone to do something they don't want to? Do I actually have the best strategy? Perhaps I'm not seeing the whole picture. Or I may even be proved right in hindsight, but what good is that? Clearly the only person I can really control - and that far from satisfactorily - is myself. So then what is my relationship to others?

The keyword that struck me this morning in the auto-rickshaw ride to the office
was 'service'. Strangely I'd been teaching others about it but never quite got it myself. One of the interesting pivotal points in the Srishti Interim Semester workshop was the moment when, having coaxed the students to come up with an idea that was really heartfelt and personally meaningful, I asked them to give it away. A background idea to this process was the series of workshops I'd done fifteen years ago at Dartington with Chris Crickmay. They were collaborative sculptiral installations. A group of people working together by individually entering a space to change it in some way - adding, removing or rearranging objects - and then leaving it for the next person. Just last October I was invited by Alan Boldon to make a piece along the same lines for the Gallery at Dartington during the Desire Lines Conference. It was a dialogue between five artists, who took turns to make an intervention into the gallery space. In each case, the previous artist’s work was available as material to be removed, manipulated, destroyed or added to. It became unclear to the viewer who had the idea, whose work was whose - and did it really matter?

I kept emphasizing, for the Srishti students that art might be not simply a means of self-expression, but an offering in the spirit of service. That it might recognize it's context rather than impose itself.

Perhaps I should try to practice what I preach.

Suddenly my job here at HP Labs seems much clearer if I think of it in terms of service. How can I help people? Yesterday's conference call focussed me onto this question of the mutual benefit in a collaborative relationship. As long as I am comfortable and free how can I direct my energies into the project of understanding and furthering intersubjective goals. And how to do this without going completely soggy and abandoning any internal compass or critical perspective?


Have just been doing some research into the history of Hewlett-Packard.
It's a good apple pie story of a couple of down home California boys who made good. Apropos of what I've just been saying in the last paragraph here's a slice of Dave Packard's home baked wisdom, typed up in 1958 in preparation for the company's second annual management convention. It's called 'eleven simple rules'. Here, in short, are the headings:

1. Think first of the other fellow.
2. Build up the other person’s sense
of importance.
3. Respect the other person’s
personality rights.
4. Give sincere appreciation.
5. Eliminate the negative.
6. Avoid openly trying to reform people.
7. Try to understand the other person.
8. Check first impressions.
9. Take care with the little details.
10. Develop genuine interest in people.
11. Keep it up.

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