Friday, 6 April 2012

Newsletter Issue 215, April 2012

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 215, April 2012
Hi guys,
Have you had any serious conflicts lately? It is usually something that arises when resources get short. Check out Values, Conflict & Resolution below.
Hands up all those who know the relationship between beards, dress-length and gold! We look very briefly at Social Cycle Theory
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Values, Conflict & Resolution

I have been thinking lately about what causes conflict. We bring our personalities, gender, cultural identity, agendas, attitudes & beliefs to everything we do; and sometimes we forget that our way is not the only way.
When we have value-based conflicts, they are difficult to resolve because they are based on each or our own individual “truths”. What we need to remember is that all over the world, lives are different; not 'wrong' or 'right'. One thing I often tell my students is there are 7 billion of us on the planet; which means there are probably 7 billion different ways of doing EVERYTHING.
There are some processes for how to deal with conflict when it arises, however, that allows us to seek a respectful win:win truth. The "five As" is a very useful method to analyse conflicts with:
  1. Assessment. Get a good picture of the conflict by considering the individual traits of those involved, the nature & cause of conflict, consider how you can clarify goals, and identify the communication environment. In thinking about how communication happens, determine if open communication is encouraged, are there established & fair procedures for problem resolution and how expert the organisation is at problem-solving. Then you need to chose an appropriate conflict handling style from the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (1974):
    • Competing (assertive & unco-operative, power-oriented, winning at all costs)
    • Accommodating (unassertive & co-operative, neglect own concerns to meet needs of others)
    • Avoiding (unassertive & unco-operative, side-steps issues, withdraws from threatening situations)
    • Collaborating (assertive & co-operative, win:win)
    • Compromising (between assertive & co-operative, splits the difference, exchanges concessions, seeks middle ground).
  2. Acknowledgement. Remembering that the people involved may not be objective, try to understand the perceptions of everyone involved. Also acknowledge their truths - this will increase likelihood of good conflict resolution. The key skills we need is LISTENING, HEARING and UNDERSTANDING everyone's viewpoints.
  3. Attitude. Everyone involved needs to communicate openly with each other, and demonstrate conciliation, compassion, concern & flexibility. All those involved must take responsibility for their own actions. You need to build trust between the groups by learning about each other's position and culture. Everyone has to stay objective, and work actively in minimising barriers such as stereotyping, listening, open-mindedness, judgementalism and understanding.
  4. Action. Here's where we get to the good bit - doing it, after all the learning. We all need to observe each other & use "conflict handling skills". They are:
    • using clear language, no slang, jargon or sarcasm; having open non-verbal communication;
    • making promises that can be kept and ensuring we deliver on them;
    • sticking to the issues & being outcome focused;
    • being focused on finding only win:win solutions;
    • dealing with the issues head-on; being open minded & flexible, sincere & trustworthy; and
    • listening, repeating and clarifying all shared information.
  5. Analysis. Now comes the learning bit. Once we have made our decisions, and taken our actions, we need to review them, and think about whether everyone's needs were met, and how well. We need to ask ourselves a series of questions. Were our decisions good in the short term? Do we think they will be good in the long-term? What was good about what we did? What was bad? What else did we learn? Then we need to apply all our answers to our Assessment phase for the next time we have a serious conflict.
Doesn't that sound easy?! Ah, of course, it is one of those things that gets easier with practice... and one of those things that once you get good at it, you no longer need it.
Kilmann, Ralph H. & Thomas, Kenneth W. (1974). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). USA: CPP, Inc.

Social Cycle Theory

In 1982 I bought a SciFi book, Friday, by Robert Heinlein. Having recently re-read that book, I was struck anew by Heinlein's proposition in the book that there was a causal relationship between men’s beards, the length of women’s dresses and the price of gold, which you could as a measure of societal health at any given time.
I was saddened by how much this book - a once 'old friend' - had dated in the intervening 30 years (!), and I don't imagine that I will read it again. But with this reading, instead of leaving the proposed relationship between beards, dresses and gold as an allegorical tool to engage the reader, I googled these three factors to see if I could find any links. Not surprisingly, I found it unlikely that there was any link - no causation that I could see, nor even any apparent correlation between the factors. But my research did lead me to look at social cycle theory.
So I did some reading on this. I quickly realised that social cycle theory was something I had run across many times before - but I just didn't know that was what it was called. There were a lot of proponents who expand social cycle theory into the rise of an elite class, or apply it to a particular ethnicity or religion (Pareto, Sorokin & Sarkar), but the aspect of this theory that I find particularly interesting is the secular mathematical model development of long-term socio-demographic cycles, largely by Nefedov, Turchin, Korotayev, and Malkov.
These guys collectively focus on socio-demographic cycles in complex agrarian systems. What happens is, after our population reaches the land's carrying capacity (ie, once humans are at maximum stock units), our growth rate declines. Our population is under stress, our living standards decline, we have famines, rebellions and unrest. While our systems have reserves, within 50-150 years we have chopped through those; then we have a "Malthusian catastrophe". This is a huge demographic collapse; severe famines, epidemics, increasing internal warfare and other disasters, resulting in a big chunk of deaths. Lots of dead people result in more resources being available, we start breeding again, and we start a new cycle.
Nefedov, Turchin, Korotayev, and Malkov set up mathematical models to predict the likelihood of Malthusian catastrophes. That old saw about history repeating itself appears to hold true: there appear to be recognisable and repeating patterns to agrarian societal rises and collapses.
Birth - growth - starvation/fighting - death - birth - growth...
But what about technological societies? What happens to our societies when only 1% of the planet's US population and 10% of the New Zealand population work the land? I might have to start researching whether social cycle theory applied to agrarian systems will follow the same rules of engagement with a technological society...
However, one of the things that all of this really brought home to me was that all of this pondering was REALLY possible - and easy - because two PhD students from Stamford created a little search engine. Called Google :-)

  • Bridges, T A, PhD (8 March 2012). Sociology & Social Theory: Classical Social Theory. Retrieved 4 April 2012 from
  • Heinlein, R A (1982). Friday. UK: New English Library
  • Korotayev, A, Malkov, A & Khaltourina, D (2006). Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends, Chapter 4 - Secular Cycles & Millennial Trends. Russia: Editorial URSS, 2006 (pp. 95-133)
  • Prout (1998). The Social Cycle. USA: Proutist International Inc. Retrieved 4 April 2012 from
  • Wikipedia (n.d.). Social Cycle Theory. Retrieved 4 April 2012 from

Handy Excel "End" Macro

If, like me, you use Ctrl and End to get you to the last cell on your worksheet, deleting lots of data can cause problems. That's because Excel remembers the deleted data, so Ctrl & End then takes you to the last cell you used -  bottom or right - before you deleted all the data. Which might be thousands of rows below where you are now.
However, there is a nifty little macro that resets the bottom/right of the Excel range to the last used cell now. Write your script:
Sub ResetRange()
End Sub
Set the hot keys to Ctrl & End. Problem solved :-)

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:
  • NEET, Not Engaged in Employment/education, or Training. An acronym for the lost youth who currently have no channel with which to contribute to society.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
How can to highlight matching data in an Excel sheet? If we don’t need our values to be rearranged or filtered, there’s a nifty Excel shortcut trick to highlight the records you want, as follows:
  • Highlight any cell in your column that contains the text value you want to see.
  • Key Ctrl & Space to select that column
  • Key Ctrl & Shift & backslash (\).

Hot Linx
CareerFAQs have a set of ten tips for calling a prospective employer at
For a reminder of the lighter side of life, check out this track from the Meaning of Life, with pictures, to put things in perspective at
HR Daily have another goodie with "Are your managers crushing creativity?" through management behaviours and culture at
Primary industries could differentiate themselves by helping clients to adopt sustainable management. Read what s+b have to say at

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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