Saturday, 21 October 2017

Britney Grate and The YouRow Club

Once upon a time a young girl called Britney Grate joined The International "YouRow" Club. At first all went well but, after a few years despite her efforts, she felt the Club had changed too much.  So, she sent in her resignation.  That's when it all became very difficult and she didn't know what to do. She wrote to a Counsellor who listened and replied...

So,Britney, let me check I've got this right... You joined The YouRow Club willingly and accepted the rules. Indeed, you got involved and helped write them. You didn't always agree with the other members but you negotiated, on equal terms. Then, years later you began to feel that the club had changed and so you decided to leave. So you said you were leaving and the other members said, “Wow, we don’t want you to leave but OK, let’s see.... you signed up to subscriptions for years, so we've had a meeting and decided you'll have to pay what you owe us before we can talk about how you'll stay friends with each of us, or not.
Britney, my view is That seems like a reasonable stance by the club. It as also means that you Britney, who made the decision to leave, are in a minority. You also tell me that parts of you want to stay - Is that right?

Let’s be honest, I don't think you, Britney, thought it through. The other members didn't want you to leave the club. They'd much rather you stay to influence the club in ways that benefit  it and you. Several Club members told me that you, Britney, have great ideas but sometimes appear big-headed. 
My clear advice, Britney, is now that you’ve got into this mess it would be best to say, “Sorry Folks, I made a mistake thinking that leaving was a good idea. So, I won't be cancelling my membership after all”.  You can always add, “But get ready you'll be getting some proposals for change”.
I really believe some of the YouRow Club want you to help them change. Indeed, they keep saying so. My view is that they’ll welcome you back and apologise for how they were often blind to what you saw and said, well most of them. What do you think now Britney?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Maydays in June

Of Grenfell Tower and other scandals
Why we must Whistleblow a wind of change.

We lay them down in Grenfell Tower
Clad in unintended consequences.
Our very own refugees, lost friends,
Clutching copies of their unread letters,
Dark reproaches Posted to their elders, richers and betters
As dawn approaches.

This year is turning slow
As a thin moon cuts high clouds.
There's a cold wind tonight
After all the heat.

The Bishop’s abused
Shudder in nightmares. Still returning from a broken youth
Listening to Canterbury Tales
Clutching copies of their unread letters,
Collusions of Effusion, C of E Isn’t this the place where sanctuary should be?
How long do we have to wait?
More examples will follow
Some in anger, others in sorrow.
Remember Hillsborough?
The trial starts tomorrow
Only 28 years too late.

Insert here something about bankers
Rhyme it with wankers
  or Saville and Greville
Crisis with Isis
Jersey with mercy
Austerity with Money Tree
Oppression with depression
Warning with mourning.

Now, such verses sound hollow
All homework we learnt
By rote (not by heart) for tomorrow
Then burnt?
Might this rhythmic pattern of rhymes with no reason
Beat the intro to a season of treason?
Time for hunkering down, Backhanding the frown Nodding off to that silent prayer, "This too will pass..."
Repeat the epithets
"Head below the parapet"
"Save your ass"
"I will not grass..."

Too late, too late!
The strong, unbolted, stable Has unbridled hate.
No more high days, hay days
Are there only Mayday Maydays?

The thundering immensity of all this
Falls on deaf ears, bent shoulders, Aching hearts and dimming hope.
Who sees any lightening in our sky?

The first of us rise up
Bare teeth and gesticulate About “Our rights!”
And kick against the pricks.
Our chorus is rhetoric
That empty echo trick.
Rasp it out through sore throats,
Spit it out at scapegoats,
Print it on placards in full view
“For the many not the few,”
Or was that,
"We’re all right - Fuck you!”?

The second of us couch potato down
Watching, screens scrolling,
Eyeballs rolling, swiveling.
Keyboards trolling, driveling.
Surfing click and chips
Licking and index fingering.

The third of us just mutter,
“Democracy,” tut and splutter,
“That stupid delusion
Coalition of confusion
Pathetic illusion”.

Despairing as far-left and alt-right
Meet behind the continuum's back
"What we have you lack!"
Red and blue make a bruise
"Qui s'excuse s'accuse"

The fourth of us ponder,
Frowning, thinking it through.
And if we know of evil do we speak?
Too few do, too few. Would you?
In austerity don't argue with authority.
If you question, or dissent,
You'll be deemed troublesome and slow,
Less effective and efficient
And then, “Let go”.

The final indignity is,
“The politicians’ swerve.”
Loosening their limper grip
On a finely shredded nerve,
We hear them cry, "This is not what we meant at all
We were wanting to stand and serve.”
And see we let them free
For the current bargain plea,
A formal, public statement of apology.

The lonely wise looked up and saw,
At each and every moment too soon,
Beyond the moon,
All our reflections in all our sky.
Each of us a star, a prick of light mingled,
Interdependent, not one of us single.
They turned and asked us, “Why?”

Seeking answers, we vaguely recall...
“Love thy neighbour...
Above all to thine own self be true...”
“If you can keep your head when all around…
“No man is an island…”
“I have a dream...”
“Yes we can...
“Humanity is you...”
These bites are all sound
But do they speak to you?

Could there be hope after all?
The forecast is more wind tonight With a harder frost whoring in.
If we hug closer, safer, warmer, tight
Might we be less vulnerable and small?

Meanwhile in La La Land...
We bend over our youngest singing,
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high,
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.”
Straightening, we leave them sleeping
Hearing our words repeating,
“Dreams that you dare to dream really can come true.”

So, let’s dare to dream and teach them
How to face the darkest hours.
We’ll set their moral compass
On those ivory towers.
We’ll demonstrate how to care
And when to be aware,
When others oppress, abuse,
With alternative facts, fake news.
We’ll say their lies are obscene
That grassing up is now green.

So, tittletattle, nark, snitch and tell tale
Whistleblow a wind!
Let our breath of life, be a righteous gale
Buffeting those who sinned.
A hurricane of hope speaking truth to power.
Let this be our learning
From the lesson of The Tower.

John Pearce June 25th 2017

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


Scary thoughts on the evening of January 6th 2017 - More of a BLOG but wanted to share thoughts...

BIG BEAR BROTHER IS MESSING WITH US! The Russian Bear is hacking about and scattering our social media trash bins to divide and misrule us...

1. How can it be true that Putin's people's hacked and released selected emails whilst also creating false news to favour #Trump's win in US Election and yet, tonight, so many are saying it did not effect the result? (Because no one dares to suggest a rerun?)
2. Is there evidence that the Trump win (or #Clinton's loss) was secured through Russian interference? The truth will come out soon - it's too big to hide but how long will it take? (My guess is after inauguration- when the most damage will be done...)
3. In the meantime, was the real purpose a trap to set #Trump against #CIA? If so, it appears (so far) to have succeeded... (But, it is still possible that Trump is playing a very clever sceptical twitter feed against a pragmatic set of actions he can only take in office... )
4. Is there any evidence that similar tactics, re false statistics and news were used in UK EU Referendum? Or are being deployed in the French and German elections?
5. Will the long term effect of "all this manipulation of social media" be a realisation that tribal politics is dangerously susceptible to "selectively leaked and falsified information" especially when it supports the tribe's views?
I'm coming to a committed view that the only way forward, for those of us who value thought through decision making in a democratic system, is to work to create an educated electorate who:
a) Think logically
b) Analyse good evidence and argument, before seeking opinions and coming to conclusions
c) Are wary of becoming consumers and publicists (slavish adherents) to others' thinking in cults, movements, political parties, and religions or ethnic, gender and sexual politics.
d) Seek knowledge from respected sources and
e) Are media savvy i.e. naturally triangulate all the evidence, information and possibilities they see before coming to informed opinions and decisions.
Hey ho - Happy New Politics!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Mayday! Mayday! Birdstrike!


To get the best out of this it may be useful, for background reading, to listen to Melvyn Bragg’s “In Our Time” Podcast on Complexity Theory  here:
and then read Professor Dave Snowden’s review here:

I listened to Melvyn Bragg’s “In Our Time” Podcast on Complexity Theory  here: only this week - on a long journey. I had intended to listen to others but my head was full of the complicated complexity within it.  For me, it was more like "The Trojan Mouse of piqued excitement" than Dave Snowden’s “Bunny of Disappointment.  I am, as Dave well knows, a novice in this field and yet, like the art lover, "I know what I like when I see it". I was provoked in my view of the social world by, especially about Eve Mitleton Kelly’s wise comment, "We can ask human participants"... So, in making my sense first an image, a metaphor, or a maybe a truth... bear with...

I feel like one of those birds in a flying formation and, I reckon I'm not alone, I'm in there flapping, but unhappy with it. I know how this migration thingy works, or think I do, and know what I have to do to stay with the migration - follow my feathered friend in front and avoid banging into my neighbours.  I am accepting we are moving from where we are to where, someone further up front seems to know, where we are going. 

But every now and then I fly off, on a maverick swerve of a loop to - feel free - test out my view of things and think... Could I? Should I risk it and go on, further and away from the flock? This means that I am often alone and sometimes followed by a few others. Other times, I see one of my kind, fly off alone and I follow.. wondering if s/he a better new direction.  I am, essentially, confused, or unsure and a little frightened when I am away from the mass of my contemporaries and so I tend to return to the group, for some kind of solace and then the frustration sets in again and wells up until I have that need to peel off again.  For example I am about to resign from the Labour Party again - I am always thinking of resigning from things... I have done it, feeling disloyal, as many times as I think I have given up smoking.  A symptom of how I feel surfaced in my Poetry Book called "Desire Lines" and, good old poetry, I realise I knew it then ten years ago in my romantic brain.  For Desire Lines are the paths cut, step by step by those who dared  leave the well trodden path.  See

That's why I first contacted Dave Snowden, as a free-flier, with some style, but we didn't break cake because he don't eat cake, he can't eat cake, yet I didn't know that when it was offered. How many paths end after these trivialities? Now to my reality - not so different to the metaphor. I came to, what I am starting to understand as Complexity, from a different standpoint, or should that be flypoint?  I have witnessed complexity and the complicated and am usually, at once, intrigued and bewildered. I have two main responses.

The first is to stand back and look at it - let it sink in and try to make sense of it.  Sometimes I think I can make sense of it (Dave’s Cynefin Model to now hand as a check) and then I enter the system with renewed purpose, tweak it and see if it improves. Sometimes, often times, it progresses - slowly. There are times when there is an immediate change for the better. I don't like slow but have come to accept it, although, not as quickly, or obviously as Dave.  I too often get angered by slow thinkers and frustrated at their pace.

The second response, often in the midst of the first, is when I see an individual, or small group, who seem to be on an interesting flight-path. I warm to these folks, always have.  They may be designated leader, the cynic in the corner, the creative and divergent team, the devious, delinquent.  They are, in my mind, the freer flyers and in them I see a precious thing - potential!  A will, determination even, to get the thing going despite the system. A lot of my work is with these middle leaders.  Muddle leaders spellchecker corrected me once - I like that. Much, if not most of my successful work has been with free-fliers.

So, what am I getting to? Well my question - my thinking is about the individuals in the system and how we might affect, recharge, motivate, empower, enable, facilitate the thinking and actions of key individuals with potential IN the system. I wanted to hear from Bragg et al, ways, not to just how to describe the forming and formulae of formations but also any consideration of interventions, activations and actions on an of those individuals IN that crowd as it moved, obediently, through the building. Up to now, and it has been a long up for me, I have reified my thinking and practise into a model that, hitherto I’ve called simple, or in an attempt to inject some power – sophisticated simplicity.

Now an airborne cul-de-sac, or learning loop-de-loop.  The first of my 2 key maxims is, "Keep it simple it will get complicated anyway, start complicated and you don't stand a chance".  The Our Time on Complexity really challenged me on that, "Who is this fool who looks at what we see and know as complex and calls for simplicity?  Isn’t he a simpleton."  

So, am I a blind goose as I flap on?  I am, at this moment, clinging on to my hunch, hypothesis, infatuation, belief, until some reader really challenges me with a different path.  I have been thinking, for a while now that the complex is actually made up of a mass of simples. Furthermore, I am believing that many of the individuals who walk, fly, or work in systems are CAPABLE of changing it for the better. Even moreso and philosophically sensibly, "We do no harm in believing this - it is at least hopeful to believe this can happen".  I just sense that it is critical that we develop, up from a base of thinking individuals (that may start from one person), the CAPACITY for thought through change.  Indeed, my second maxim is, “Never, ever, underestimate the nous of those you work with.”  I really want these free-flyers to become free-thinkers because I believe this has to be better than the ouijaboard, emojiboard (thanks spellchecker again) approach to politics we have seen, most recently in the Arab Spring, Brexit and Trump phenomena.  In these mass movements, it seems that too many have flown along with the crowd, only to regret the consequences when they see the eagle has landed on their heads.

This is a major reason why I developed The iAbacus to be - yes a deceptively simple tool - but more importantly a process that sets the individual's hopes and fears within, alongside and, if necessary, at odds with the simple directional instructions from the Head Birds.  I designed this way of working, to start with each individual's vision, in order that he/she/they can make a better informed decision about their direction of travel, when they check out their judgements against the expectations of others.  We are always looking to find more iAbacus users who "get this approach".  My hope is that these are likely to be the transformational leaders who use it to refine, redirect and nudge not only their own work and lives, but also the group-think, even Gadarene surge, at worst mass hysteria, within their organisations.  Maybe we only need a few free-fliers for it to prove its value?  In other words… whilst there are systems in place that appear to be working, even at a low level, isn’t it possible to work from within and make significant excursions, fly-by experiments, nudges and inner movement trends that will have a significant impact on the organisation’s, system’s direction BEFORE the whole lot crashes around our ears in a mass of tar and feathers?  

I suppose I am asking, in all this complexity, is there, in the Complex view of things, any space for iAbacus this maverick's Map o’Monday? That’s next Monday - we must start soon!  
That is why iAbacus comes prepopulated with the expectations, criteria, flight plans of the Head Birds NOT just to be followed, mutely, but to be challenged, edited and modified to suit local circumstances. For goodness sake even those straight Roman Roads, go round the really big local obstacles. Surely having the Boss’s map to hand and suggesting deviations is better than rejecting the map and going solo into the unknown, unknowns.  In extreme cases the given directions may need to be replaced. On the other wing Head Birds get it right, probably more often than not, that's how we survive. In every case each individual's self-evaluation is helpful because any good leader will be chuffed when a colleague, after checking the direction of travel says, "Yes, I agree we are on course".  I guess each will fly with more enthusiasm too.

Our frustration with the worst iAbacus users is they often default and become slaves to the original, unaltered and faulty criteria map and so, may risk, at worst flying headlong into hillsides and storm clouds because they were just not paying attention.  They are not good because they obey orders, they will become better when they test them. I want them to be outstanding by being prepared to disobey or interpret orders. I want them to realise it must not get too late.  I want them to think now and act soon.  Even Baldrick had a cunning alternative plan.  In the end it’s little use crying, “Mayday! Mayday!” on the final, terrifying dive. Worst still, "I thought this would happen".

To see more about The iAbacus look no further than

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Learnings from the Workshop

From the heart of the hearth..

Prompted by a friend who saw a photograph in my Blacksmith workshop, I decided to open up a cherished personal space to my teaching and leadership colleagues...

So, when asked to film the video as Keynote to the Academy Transformation Trust Training Day #STAFFDay on Monday October 31st - I did so. It was to be for Transformational Leaders and it just seemed right to make the links between what I have learnt in education, in classrooms and staff-rooms and also in my Workshop - where I retreat to reflect and review my professional life.  We've just finalised filming a piece with a subtitle:

From Workshop to...

To see to video click:

Tools and methodologies

I'm not giving away the content here but I was struck by how the links are stronger that I had, at first, thought....

The first link is between the tools and methods we use.  I have old tools handed down for hundreds of years in my workshop and brand new ones too.  In education we also have old faithful tools and methodologies and always a range of new, shiny items to tempt us.  Some blacksmiths, teachers and leaders hold on to the old and resist change.  Others grab anything new just because it's new.  Whereas, the best in both professions evaluate and select the most appropriate and effective, for each job, proving them as they go. If a bad workman blames his tools, he should get rid of those that don't do task in hand.  If I had to choose my favourite tool from the workshop it would be my Ultimate Brace (Brass and Ebony Circa 1850) As a leader my favourite tool is, "teacher talks first" (listen before acting).  I love both tools and use them whenever I can but I sometimes choose other approaches... just because a tool works in one situation it doesn't mean we HAVE to keep using the damned thing!  Who was it who said, "If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to hit things"?

Creating originals

One thing that distinguishes the work of most Blacksmiths is that each piece is original, hammered out lovingly (yes you can hammer lovingly) on the anvil. Welded, filed, honed and polished into a unique form.  This is not mass-production and, whilst some make moulds to copy originals, it takes only few seconds to see and feel the copy is not the real thing.   It's so tough to keep to this belief in making originals - and it's a lousy business model... the original costs so much more than the mass produced copies. And so it is with our education system.  I often muse that we too often seem to prize the mass production of similar students, to a predetermined pattern, rather than take time to draw out, or allow the original to form.  The artist-teacher, she who prizes the individuality of her pupils, hurts deepest when the system appears to rewards the mass producer who turns out high numbers of the predetermined model.

And what about the customers, the parents?  Are they losing the ability, and the will to detect the real thing? Don't the politicians go for the cheap, bog standard for the masses production?  Ironically, there is a real danger that the system itself mitigates against the creative and original in favour of s/he who can mass produce the desired outcomes - time and reliably, time again...  I despair for the dreamer and creative mind, who wants to tarry, or diverge and think as he is carried forward in fast moving linear progression...

Metaphors we still live by

I love the metaphors we still use in our daily lives that come from the Blacksmith's Forge.  the fact that we temper metal for different purposes in the forge. To spring, or to bend, to be hard or to be soft.  Outside the workshop we talk about losing our tempers, our sense of control. Like the once strong springing beam we will bend loose in the heat of it all.  I still hear the phrase, "Too many irons in the fire" meaning she is trying to do too much.  This is worth extending for, as a blacksmith, I know that putting too many irons into the fire causes them to overheat and melt before I can use them...  How many teachers and heads are currently losing their tempers and melting because they simply have too much to do.  "If I could speak quicker, write faster, stay up longer..."  The remedy is quick, obvious and easy to right in the forge - only a failing fool keeps using the wrong tempered steel and continues shoving irons in the fire.  But I still see hero and heroine innovators doing too much and getting over-heated and stressed, as I did once.  Their decline and loss of impact takes longer to show up but it is doing deep damage and is sometimes, later, too much to repair - see Superhead poem

A positive end

Now this BLOG must not end in despair - (My #ATTStaffDay Keynote is about HOW we attain success by the way!)  And I intend this first draft (on 27/10/16) to be edited and sharpened up, polished even. I will search for more metaphors to weld in and I'll work through the thinking this has allowed me.  I'll also look to the responses on Monday and see what they offer...

So, I'll end by hammering a point home... If you haven't yet found your Workshop equivalent - find it soon.. your professional work will be poorer without it.  One thing is sure - my Workshop has kept me sane for all my 46 years in education. It has always been my retreat, my place of solace. I always come away from it enriched, sweaty and very dirty - with a real sense of perspective. I get a similar recharging from climbing mountains (By the way I'd be open to a commission for a Keynote Video filmed at the top of a Snow Clad Mountain!)   So I must end, as I always try to do, with a question for you...  Where is your personal space?  Where do you go and what do you do to reflect, relax and gain a sense of proportion and perspective...  Answers on a postcard please to

The Workshop - Mathom House.... Alfreton Derbyshire....or, go on, use a modern tool  (it's easier and more appropriate) email:

For more....

For the full Keynote video, the inspiration for this BLOG go to 

Or go to: and click on the icon below

Here are some taster videos I filmed about Learnings from the Workshop:

1  Old tools versus new tools      -                   
2  Creating something unique     -                   
3  Sliding a bead                       -                   
4  Keeping your temper             -                   
5  Going with the grain             -