How We Took Control Over Our Stiff Upper Lips

Ian Hislop’s Stiff Upper Lip – An Emotional History of Britain I never tire of watching Peter Cook‘s WW2 officer announcing to valiant subordinate Jonathan Miller in Beyond The Fringe: Perkins, I want you to lay down your life. We need a futile gesture at this stage … Miller as Perkins accepts his fate withContinue reading “How We Took Control Over Our Stiff Upper Lips”

A Dragon In A Pigeonhole: Gender and Stereotyping At Work

Hilary Devey’s Women at the Top

Despite not being a huge fan of this Dragon’s Den business celeb, I was quite gripped by her documentary  about inequality in employment between the genders. There was nothing very new in it, but it was great to see a “queen bee” (as a powerful leading woman in a male-dominated business gets called these days) being jolted out of her previous simplistic take on gender in the workplace – basically the “I managed it, why can’t they?” approach. Interesting in particular to hear the success of changing gender awareness and gender balance within the ranks at P&G.

There are some areas that will always be male dominated, one suspects – but some are just that way because no one has bothered challenging received wisdom. More than a decade ago I carried out some qual work on a gender issue in the British Army and interviewed soldiers right across the ranks. I can’t share the detailed insights on here, fascinating though they were. But it is a matter of public record that there are women who can pass the physical tests for entry into the infantry – there are some superb and very tough female athletes in the Army. The barriers to the Army accepting women into the teeth arms of the British military are not physical but to do with group dynamics, culture and psychology – no less real for that, but not what you might have expected coming at the issue afresh.

The infantry is perhaps exceptional because its personnel decisions have life and death consequences, but Hilary Devey’s warehouse was all male also for no good physical reason, just a cultural one. Women have not been encouraged to think they could train as forklift truck drivers and so there are few out there. But there’s no obvious reason other than the work culture to exclude women from training up for that kind of job. And warehouses don’t have the life and death excuse. But cultural stereotypes are powerful.

I also wasn’t surprised to see in the team exercise experiment, the mixed gender team out-performing the single gender teams. That’s been my experience of workplace teams too and I’m a big believer in not just mixed gender in teams but mixed personality type and mixed as much as possible. It’s that coming together of different perspectives that is so effective, especially in my line of work, qualitative research.

I’ll watch the rest of the series with interest. 

Olympic Britain: Substance 2012

So I’ve waved goodbye to this phenomenon that breezed into my life, swept me off my feet for two weeks and now leaves me pining at the airport, watching the vapour trail. No, I’m not having an affair with a wayward airline pilot, I meant the Olympics. (I hear the Olympic village usually turns intoContinue reading “Olympic Britain: Substance 2012”

The Happiness Objective: the ONS Reports on British Well-being

The ONS’s first reporting of the “happiness” statistics – based on “subjective” answers to specific survey questions, rather than so-called “objective” forms of data – came out on Tuesday 24th July. No big surprises and it will only become really interesting, I think, once it beds in and we get year-on-year comparisons going. I wasContinue reading “The Happiness Objective: the ONS Reports on British Well-being”

Driving Our Man Machines Towards Distraction: Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows”

The Sunday Times described it as a “bold reactionary book” – and so it is. I’ve just finished reading Nicholas Carr‘s The Shallows (subtitle: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember). Its main point is a simple one: the Internet is a medium that revolves around distraction and our usageContinue reading “Driving Our Man Machines Towards Distraction: Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows””

The Glorious Land: TomTom Club On Tour

So, I’ve negotiated the straits between Scylla and Charybdis and my sat nav is raring to go. On the off-chance a random client strays by mistake onto my onanistic blog, this is a public service announcement (without guitars). I’ve been on a break for the last few weeks, yesterday was my first proper day backContinue reading “The Glorious Land: TomTom Club On Tour”

Olympics 2012: Good Time For Fieldwork Outside South-East

A bit of self-promotion here, but hopefully a useful tip too. It’s to flag that, this summer, there’s a particularly strong reason to base your qualitative fieldwork in the Midlands or North, rather than the South-East region. And get me to do it, obviously. Many of us will have received another Transport for London emailContinue reading “Olympics 2012: Good Time For Fieldwork Outside South-East”

Steering the elephant in the room, not just nudging it

In between helping my lad complete The Usborne Book Of Things To Spot out of the Flybe plane window back from Belfast at the weekend (or Fly Maybe as they are sometimes known) I caught up with Matt Grist’s paper, “Steer”, for the RSA from a couple of years back. The report was part ofContinue reading “Steering the elephant in the room, not just nudging it”

More Brooks – TED talk on reasons to be cheerful about the revolution

Brooks TED talk on The Social Animal This entertaining, brief talk gives a flavour of the book. Must read his book about our feted but ludicrous social elites, with a great title: Bobos in Paradise. I think he writes mainly about America so let’s pretend it isn’t the same here. For now, carrying on withContinue reading “More Brooks – TED talk on reasons to be cheerful about the revolution”

An Insight on Qual Analysis: from David Brooks’s “The Social Animal”

On my recent visit to the US I finally got around to buying The Social Animal (Random House, 2011) – subtitled The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement – by New York Times writer David Brooks. I’m reading it at the moment. It’s full of interesting stuff about what makes us who we areContinue reading “An Insight on Qual Analysis: from David Brooks’s “The Social Animal””