Archive for the 'Storytelling' Category

Monkeys – a reflection on how we do things

Keith August 7th, 2008

Start with a cage containing five monkeys.

Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it.  Also, set up a system of cold water sprinklers over the whole cage.

Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs to climb towards the banana.  As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the monkeys with cold water. The monkey will leave the banana alone and try to get away from the water.  Turn off the spray.

After a while, another monkey will make an attempt with the same result. Pretty soon the monkeys will get sick of getting wet, and will stop any of the monkeys from attempting to climb the stairs, even though no water sprays them.

Keep this up for several days.

Now, remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.

The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. Even the previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm. Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth.

Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Continue Reading »

The power of story

Keith August 4th, 2008

You may have caught this video on YouTube, or seen it going around on email or FaceBook. 

So many emotive emails turn out to be fake – it is refreshing to find that this one (according to Today) is apparently a true story.  Just looking at the hair styles in the video places this in the early seventies! The original version was shot on 16mm film (yes, remember film?) without sound (making it easier to dub schmaltzy music over it).

It appears that “Christian” the lion was actually bought at Harrods by two Australians – Anthony Bourke and John Rendall – in 1969, kept in the basement of a London furniture store for a year and eventually repatriated to Africa, in the care of George Adamson of Born Free fame. (This came about because the actors who played Joy and George Adamson in the movie just coincidentally happened to drop in to the shop one day.) 

The Today article states that the reunion shown in the video took place in 1972. The YouTube version of the video linked above also shows George Adamson. 

The really amazing part of the story is a later reunion in 1974.  Christian hadn’t been seen for three months, but suddenly reappeared and sat on a rock outside Adamson’s camp the night before Bourke and Rendall landed, as if waiting.

Continue Reading »

Subversion is in the eye of the beholder

Keith July 18th, 2008

“… officials held a press conference to alert law enforcement officials of a dangerous new hallucinogen…”

Kakadu – Life at a different pace

Keith July 13th, 2008

While you sleeping
you dream something.
Tree and grass same thing.
They grow with your body,
with your feeling.

Where Underpants Come From

Keith June 19th, 2008

Just heard an interesting interview on the radio.  The subject was Joe Bennett, who has recently published a book called: Where Underpants Come From.  You can read more about the book in an article in New Zealand’s Dominion Post.

Apparently, Bennett looked at the “Made in China” tag in his new undergarments one day, and decided to find out more.  This led him on a rather strange journey to China, and into Chinese history.

The thing that caught my attention was a story he told of one incident during the journey.

As I remember the story, he was eating in a small restaurant in a lane-way in a Chinese city.  He was the only tourist in the restaurant, among 30 or 40 Chinese customers. The others in the restaurant fairly quickly noticed his entire lack of ability to eat with chopsticks.  He was “spreading food all over the restaurant, and not eating anything”.  Everyone was very good-natured about it, and some began to laugh at his predicament.  He laughed with them.  One came over and gave him instructions on eating with chopsticks.

By the end of the meal, even though he spoke almost no Chinese, and the other diners little English, they were all laughing and joking together. When he left the restaurant, everyone said goodbye to him.  The waitress even followed him out onto the street to return his tip.

Continue Reading »

The first day…

Keith May 1st, 2008

So – today is my first day post-Telstra!

I have spent the day in Sydney delivering a half-day workshop at the Data Quality conference, and spent some time catching up with Matt Moore in the evening over a refreshing drink or two – and a $10 steak.  We had a very small group for the workshop, but everyone seemed to get something useful from it.  It was actually quite fun having the small group – we only needed one table, so I came and sat at the table as well, and delivered the session from there.  More fun in the city tomorrow.

By odd coincidence, last night was also my first night at a Creative Writing course at CAE, which I am attending with my daughter Renée.  One of the exercises at the course was to write continuously – about anythng – for ten minutes.  You can imagine what was the first thing that came to mind.  So, just for fun, here it is – completely unedited:

Continue Reading »

The power of social networking

Keith March 21st, 2008

So we have found our new car.  This certainly demonstrates the power of networks.  It also is an example of the use of a “hook” in a story.  Would the exercise have worked in the same way if I had just written: “Wanted – used car”?  A couple of my correspondents mentioned that it was the use of the precise amount of $8,516.58 in the title that attracted attention.  This also perhaps reflects the “stickiness” factor discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point.  (In fact, my use of a number like this was inspired by $16,940, an old Sci-Fi short story by Larry Niven.)

There are still many people that are critical of Internet social networking tools, such as Facebook.  In August last year, Brian Lehrer of NPR in New York put out a podcast called “Facebook is a waste of time”.  He starts off sounding critical of Facebook, and particularly its impact within organisations.  It is interesting that while some organisations have blocked Facebook access to employees, others are using it extensively.  Last I heard, over 14,000 Deloitte staff are members.

In this podcast, he interviews Nick O’Neill of  Nick highlights the benefits of Facebook to organisations for recruiting and adding to brand image, among many other things.

Continue Reading »

Found – used car for $8,516.58

Keith March 16th, 2008

Exactly one month after posting my request for a replacement car here and on my LinkedIn and Facebook networks, I picked up my new car. 

And I paid exactly $8,516.58!

It is a really nice, low-mileage 1999 Subaru Impreza (no, not a WRX).  It is in most ways a substantially better car that the Hyundai it is replacing.  It even comes with a number of bonuses, like mag wheels, roof bars and towbar.  Here it is, safely ensconced in the front yard:


Continue Reading »

The Story of Sorry

Keith February 14th, 2008

Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations yesterday was profound, and very moving.  I think it was also notable that the centrepiece of it was a story.  Just one story, of a single person’s experiences.  Yet this was a powerful way of making the speech something more than platitudes.  It showed a willingness to listen, and to attempt to understand, the experiences inflicted upon our indigenous people by authorities until as recently as the early 1970s.

The speech was attended by all but one of the five living former Australian Prime Ministers.


The Games was a satirical program shown on ABC TV in Australia in two series in 1998 and 2000.  It was written by John Clarke, Ross Stevenson and others.  Episode 3 of Series 2 (3 July 2000) was significant in that it included the following “Apology from John Howard”. 

While the program was satirical, this particular speech was in its own way moving, and almost as profound.  It was read by the Australian actor John Howard, and can currently be seen on YouTube here.  A full copy of the episode script is here

Continue Reading »


Keith February 14th, 2008

I move:

That today we honour the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians. We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

Continue Reading »

« Prev - Next »