Space to Think

So thinking can develop

Importance of fantasy and inadequacy of experts

Reading Alan Bennett’s annual ‘diary’ in the London Review of Books (vol.30, No.1); his entry for 15 October reflects on a conversation with Peter Gill who was bringing out a book on acting, Actors Speaking. Bennett writes:

He thinks that what has been a shortcoming of American actors, namely, that while superb at naturalism they find artificiality difficult, is now the case here [UK] …

Bennett goes on to comment, with Gill, “today’s generation of actors are better at imitation … but what they lack is fantasy…” Bennett gives examples of actors from lowly backgrounds who have been very successful both generally and at portraying a range of characters.

… all of them had some sense of their proper position in life, a fantasy of what they wanted to be which these days would probably be disapproved of or discouraged, fantasy frowned on as some sort of escape.

This all got me thinking. Perhaps we have so exalted the expert and technical knowledge that we fail to value the contribution that imagination and fantasy can make to our lives, personal and corporate. If the only standard against which we measure ourselves and others is established expert knowledge, or orthodoxy then there can be no real innovation, only adaptation; no entrepreneurship or leadership, only management. If we are measured against some agreed sense of ‘reality’ then what we must do is imitation rather than creativity.

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January 30, 2008 Posted by | Cognitive Edge, complexity, Education, imagination, leadership, management | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sir Ed – One of us

Today we farewelled Sir Edmund Hillary. I have been surprised by just how significant his death and the trubutes to him have been for me. Elsewhere I have offered some more theological thoughts, and have said there:

Someone has written in to Radio New Zealand National saying of Ed Hillary, “No one like him will pass this way again.” I think that this is understandable sentiment on the day of his funeral, but actually undermining what Ed stood for. He challenges all of us to live life as well and as full as he has. Of course he was unique, but only in the same sense as each of us.

And:

Dean Peter Beck emphasised (in the funeral eulogy) the phrase, he was an ordinary New Zealander. Elsewhere in the tributes what was emphasised was Ed as an exemplar human being. It seems to me that we are helping define the concept of “ordinary” when we use a person of Ed Hillary’s accomplishments and call him ordinary. In other words, Ed embodies what we can be. This is much healthier than the kind of accolades that make a hero into something quite unattainably different than the rest of us. We claim Ed Hillary. We are not prepared for him to be so different that he is not one of us. He redefines in many positive ways what it means to be human and to be a New Zealander. That is why he is important to us. That is why we have and needed to pause to honour the man. He is us, and so we can be more than we would otherwise consider being.

Perhaps this is part of what we mean by leadership.

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January 22, 2008 Posted by | leadership | , , , | Leave a comment