Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Christmas in the desert

I'm currently in the United Arab Emirates near Al Ain doing some selection and assessment and leadership training work.

The Abu Dhabi Civil Service is trying to assess each of its senior Police Officers objectively, and is using Occupational Psychologists to do it. It's been really interesting doing this type of work in such an alien environment, using interpreters etc and it's also really good fun...

The leadership training camp


The view from my bedroom window - note the big mosque being built!

Christmas Dinner - delivered by the local hotel

Dish dash fun


Christmas Dinner al fresco

The evening call to prayer

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Can Gerry Robinson fix....us?

I watched the TV programme Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes? tonight. It was the best programme of the year. Moving, revealing, raw; at times it was physically painful to watch.


The programme revealed the standard of care in some of our dementia care homes to be little short of inhumane. One man, Ken, spent the night in pain whilst an emergency alarm lay inches out of reach.

Care homes are like this because they are mainly judged by health and safety standards, which inevitably ignore the important things in life like stimulation, inspiration, quality of life.

Meanwhile the very best care homes offer activities to the residents, involving them in the running of the care home. They give people opportunities to live, and in so doing to make meaning in their days. By simply looking at care provision through the eyes of residents, everything changed.

But in most places residents spend their days locked in a single room, staring in a circle at their slippers, waiting to die.

"Please, help us please, we're just stagnant...stagnant" said Ken to Gerry. Where would you send your Mother, your Father?

The truly shocking thing is that the real difference between the best and worst of care was the attitude of the manager. This is a matter of human will. It is a choice. What does all this say about the business of care? asked Gerry Robinson at the end of the programme.

Good question.

But what does it say about us?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

How well do we listen?


Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning. A man with a violin plays six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people passed through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.

45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin valued at $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the price of seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made……….. what else are we missing?