More enjoyable evidence and encouragement for those thinking of taking on the forces of perfectionism this year (in a random and chaotic way, obviously) – can be found in the book ‘Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives’ by Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist.

After years of laughing at the phrase ‘think outside the box’ I now realise, helped by Mr Harford, why these words have always sounded so silly.  I hadn’t thought to ask: why climb into the box in the first place?

For that is what imposing order, or controlling conditions, or assembling familiar chums as working teams does to us.

Comfort is increased, doubt is reduced (sounding attractive, huh?) and a delicious complacency warms everyone involved.

Disorder is uncomfortable. And that’s the point.

Strangers make us behave differently. We listen more, are more careful to refine and strengthen our thinking.   Anything ‘unexpected’ is source of stressful…energy, forcing different and new ways to approach the situation.

The random jolts us into making unusual connections and creating new answers.
Sure, it’s easier when everything is under control, when everything’s tidy.
But isn’t that ‘the box’?

The evidence mounts up that this is how habits become a tyranny.

Certain judicious obstacles, which a degree of disorder invites, really do help us all grow and do better.   And wouldn’t it be great to hear households ringing with parents’ voices shouting upstairs ..‘I’m not telling you again – untidy that room!’


T80pxtreeom Lehrer, creator of darkly humourous songs, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Lehrer) famously declared ‘satire’ dead when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.  He said that a place well beyond irony had been reached.

Perhaps it’s happening again.

A group was talking in the café the other day about the patchy wi- fi, which led to grumbling about missed calls, which led to how essential the ‘phone was, which led to discussing cell phone addiction…

Guess what?

There’s an app for that.

There is an app for you for if you are addicted to apps. Its called ‘Break Free’. http://www.breakfree-app.com.   It will help you ‘maintain a healthy digital lifestyle’ apparently.

Titter ye not.

Are you sensing a small loss of awareness here? A small loss of a sense of irony?

Loss of irony is a teeny tiny warning sign.
It’s a warning of the imminent loss of being able to see another’s viewpoint.

How so?

Deb Gruenfeld, social psychologist from Stanford, studies power in organisations and its effects on our emotional intelligence. In the ‘E’ and ‘Fan’ experiments in 2008 (http://www.cnbc.com/id/25271065/) she and her colleague looked at how participants wrote an ‘E’ on their foreheads after having been primed to feel powerful or less powerful. Those who felt powerful were 3 times more likely to write from their own perspective – ie the letter was backwards/ meaningless to anyone else.

And the participants could see nothing questionable about this at all.

Emotional intelligence, the skills of comprehending and connecting with others, of seeing things from another’s viewpoint, had been corroded by feelings of power.

Back to the app.

So powerful is the power feeling from having an app to solve stuff, that another perspective, a perspective that might be alerted by irony to something going awry, begins to disappear.

Emotional Intelligence? There’s no app for that. There really isn’t.
Penny Hunt is author of ‘Managing resistance to change’ and ‘Support your team through change’ available from Pearson 



ou don’t see the word ‘Luddite’ for weeks on end and then suddenly it’s everywhere….prompted because, startlingly, it appeared in a speech by The Bank of England’s Chief Economist at the Trades Union Congress last week. And to double the startlement, he asked – ‘Did those Luddites have a point after all?’

In my line of business, anyone suggesting that exponential technological advance may not be completely wonderful for life and work as we know it is about as popular as a wasp in a lift.   It’s really Artificial Intelligence that we’re frightened of, isn’t it? AI computes itself right to the top of that technology anxiety list.

Mr Haldane was not only sharing this anxiety, but also predicting with some confidence that robots would be replacing many, many, more of us at work in the future than we might have feared.

(‘Lessons of the Luddites‘ in the Guardian and ‘Were the Luddites right?‘ from the BBC)

So, did the Luddites have a point?

And will robots replace us?

We could reclaim and reframe the word Luddite.

Luddites were concerned about the nature and abuse of technological advance rather than advance itself. Luddite thinking might actually be quite radical.

You see, a few weeks ago, a Law Professor at Washington University, Ryan Carlo, planted an ineradicable image in our minds. His view is that evolution equips humans to respond to any scenario with a level of sophisticated emotional intelligence that no robot can ever, ever, ever manage.

His example?
Free Clown Hugs’.

Doesn’t that sound scarey? No sentient human being would ever think that a clown offering free hugs was an OK and desirable thing. (We can’t explain ‘why’ completely rationally, can we?)

Yet an artificial processor will simply see something good 3 times over – ‘free’, ‘a clown’, ‘a hug’.

An Innovative Luddite can see the future without fear.

It’s not the number of robots that matters. Bring them on.
It’s not technological advance. Hurrah for that.

It’s any exclusion or suppression of emotional intelligence, any reduction in instinct and humanity, as currency within the workplace that matters.   We must constantly revalue what we are, and what we can be, when we are at work. Radical.

The radical Luddite simply strives to make and keep work as human as it can possibly be.


Penny writes on the Management of Change and has published two books:

Support your Team through Change book by Penny Hunt     Managing Resistance to Change book by Penny Hunt