Berko Dérive

A week ago I had a taster of how to explore intuition. It wasn’t something I’d signed up for, or even expected. It was just a catch-up meeting after about 15 years with my friend Clive Holtham of City University’s Cass Business School, who had originally helped me establish my electronic document management system, and with whom I have had many thought provoking and inspiring conversations about new office technology and its uses. I figured that, after five years of doing Order From Chaos stuff, it was time for another dose of reflections, imaginations and nugget exchanges with him. I wasn’t disappointed.

We had arranged to meet outside Berkhamsted station at 09.53, and the first thing we did was have coffee in the station’s high ceilinged and rather grand, in an old style renovated with 5 video cameras focused on every doorway, sort of way. We sat down and with little ado Clive provided me with my A5 journaling notebook and my Derwent Water Brush Pen for enhancing crayon marks. He gave me a tour of the crayon pencils and water based crayon pens and the pencil case we were to share, all the while explaining how we were going to journal our Dérive (check it out in Wikipedia) through Berkhamsted and why. Interspersed, of course, with both our numerous questions, accounts of our experiences, and our descriptions of related work.

We started to write, or, I should say, crayon and brush and illustrate, our journals. I noted that Dérive involves Noticing, Conversation and Storytelling (using the five senses, as Clive alerted me during our walk). When I started describing my Order From Chaos activities, Clive immediately chipped in saying that we need more Chaos, not less, to get us out of conventional thinking and rote responses. A few exchanges later we agreed there is probably a compromise to be had.  Clive advised me to look out a David Snowden paper which directly addresses getting order form chaos (and includes a model) which clearly I shall be looking for very shortly in Snowden’s ‘Cognitive Edge’ website.  I used a page to write down VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) and to highlight its distinction from the conventional and craved-for utopia, SCSC (Stability, Certainty, Simplicity, Clarity).

Eventually we started our walk and found ourselves on the tow path of the Grand Union Canal. We continued to talk; we stopped, admired, examined, exclaimed, took photos (Clive takes many photos  and stores them all in dated folders) and drifted on. We came across an access cover to the fibre optic channel laid along the tow path of the industrial revolution’s super highway; and we encountered two brass rubbing plates describing Berkhamsted history with a notice advising us to visit a website (our equipment proved not to be up to brass rubbing so we resolved to obtain charcoal and sugar paper at an art shop if we could find one). We spoke to a lady about the butterflies and pleasantness of the place; we discussed architecture; we saw a very large monkey in a conservatory (almost certainly not alive); we talked about art deco on the high street; and we encountered more monkeys in an antique shop and noted a pattern. We went in to an art shop which told us that, no, they didn’t have charcoal or sugar paper (brass rubbing plaques on the canal – oh really?!) but that there was an art and craft shop further up the high street which almost certainly would have them.

For lunch, we took up the offer of doing market research on fizzy drinks and duly sampled three different versions of three different drinks (I had Cream Soda, Ginger Ale, and Fizzy Orange)and were asked to provide all sorts of complicated observations about how they looked and tasted (Clive deliberately used all his five senses) in answers involving the five possibilities very good, good, average, not so good, poor (or equivalents); and which eventually one couldn’t distinguish between and just became approximated to average so that we could get to the food part of lunch which was a chocolate bar or chewy sweets for our troubles.

We found the art and craft shop which turned out to be a veritable cornucopia of different and unusual stationery items of immense use in the pursuit of Art-Based Management Education and Order From Chaos exercises. The Assistant helped us with charcoal, and the Proprietress sorted out our paper (two particular types just to be sure) and we left satisfied that we could now rise to the challenge of canal-side rubbing. Outside the Art & Craft shop, I asked Clive if he had heard of ArtRage and he said he’d been using it for the last ten years – an excellent product. I mentioned that  my son was the owner (I should really have said joint owner  – well, joint developer, builder and owner) and we laughed, amazed at the connection.

Outside the sun continued to shine. We found another place to park the car – this time for free and by the canal. We sat on a bench to put more stuff into our journals and I watched a man on the grass, thirty feet away, tickling a swan on its side while it pecked his other arm as if licking the salt like a dog would do. It was something I had never seen or even imagined. We crayoned and discussed, and drew and brushed the water paints. We talked about Buckminster Fuller, about hexagons (so much better for fitting together than Post-Its,) and about encouraging students to first do Notetaking, then to do a quick read with Basic Reflection; and finally to undertake Deep Reflection. Clive remarked that Schools progressively remove imagination from pupils and that any that is left is surgically removed by the universities.

Eventually, we had  another stroll along the other tow path and found curious outdoor gym equipment without instruction but maybe for back stretching. Then we came across another brass plaque. Clive attacked it with gusto, trying first the thinnish paper with the charcoal (just didn’t work) then triumphing with a black crayon on the newsprint paper. With this victory documented in several photos, we found our way back to the car, drove to the station, and had an ice cream before Clive caught the 4.01 to London.  I drove home with my Journal, my Water Brush Pen, my 40 rouble Water Colour Pallet, and an A7ish booklet of the Reflective Practitioner Exhibition 2017 printed by Boots from a Snapfish account.

Of course the above description can’t convey the richness of our conversation nor the extent of our exchange of knowledge; but I hope it paints the dreamlike context with which our minds were opened and new pathways were discovered – just as Clive intended.  Days like that don’t come around very often; so it will stick in my mind and will ooze out across my thinking for many days and weeks to come; and will almost certainly colour my thinking about this particular Order From Chaos journey.

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