Issue #398
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Hello!

In this week's issue: some excellent ideas about how cities can be reimagined for post-pandemic living and working, the discourse of disruption, and... well, some things are entirely predictable.

On my personal blog this week I published:
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The crisis in professional sport is one of its own making

I couldn't agree more with this analysis from Barney Ronay, one of my favourite sports writers:
Professional sport is facing a crisis of unprecedented urgency. It must be prepared to face it largely alone.
At which point it is worth being clear on exactly what is at stake. This is a moment of peril that should raise questions far beyond simply survival or sustaining the status quo. Questions such as: what is sport actually for? And more to the point, what do we want it to look like when this is all over?
It helps to define the terms of all this jeopardy. There has been a lot of emotive rhetoric about sport being on the verge of extinction, its very existence in doubt, as though the basic ability to participate, support and spectate could be vaporised out from beneath us.
This is incorrect. What is being menaced is the current financial management of professional sport, its existing models and cultural practices, much of which is pretty joyless and dysfunctional in the first place.
Barney Ronay, Never waste a crisis: Covid-19 trauma can force sport to change for good (The Guardian)

Was sport less enjoyable before loads of money was thrown at it? As Ronay points out, Gareth Bale earning £600,000 per week "could keep every club in League Two in business by paying their combined wage bill out of his annual salary".

I'm not sure the current model is sustainable, so if the pandemic forces a rethink, I'm all for it.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can be very creative about it

Post-pandemic cities
🌱 From garden streets to bike highways: four ideas for post-Covid cities – visualised

💰 Should Employers Cut Your Salary If You Change Cities?

🏂 Friluftsliv, the Norwegian Concept of Outdoor Living

🐟 A whopping 91% of plastic isn't recycled

🤯 F1 Pit Stop In 2-Seconds: An In-Depth Analysis

Quotation-as-title by Richard Koch. Image from top-linked post.

The discourse of disruption

Adrian Daub, a professor of literature, takes issue with the tech sector's focus on disruption:
Most of the discourse around disruption clearly draws on the idea of creative destruction, but it shifts it in important respects. It doesn’t seem to suggest that ever-intensifying creative destruction will eventually lead to a new stability – that hyper-capitalism almost inevitably pushes us toward something beyond capitalism. Instead, disruption seems to suggest that the instability that comes with capitalism is all there is and can be – we might as well strap in for the ride. Ultimately, then, disruption is newness for people who are scared of genuine newness. Revolution for people who don’t stand to gain anything by revolution.
Indeed, there is an odd tension in the concept of disruption: it suggests a thorough disrespect towards whatever existed previously, but in truth it often seeks to simply rearrange whatever exists. Disruption is possessed of a deep fealty to whatever is already given. It seeks to make it more efficient, more exciting, more something, but it never ever wants to dispense altogether with what’s out there. This is why its gestures are always radical, but its effects never really upset the apple cart: Uber claims to have “revolutionised” the experience of hailing a cab, but really that experience has largely stayed the same. What it managed to get rid of were steady jobs, unions and anyone other than Uber making money on the whole enterprise.
Adrian Daub, The disruption con: why big tech’s favourite buzzword is nonsense (The Guardian)

Venture-capital backed tech companies providing profits through (what I call) 'software with shareholders' fracture our societies, destroy our communities, and enrich the privileged.

Let's talk

Wise words from Seth Godin:
Universities and local schools are in crisis with testing in disarray and distant learning ineffective…
It’s comfortable to ignore the system, to assume it is as permanent as the water surrounding your goldfish. But the fact that we have these tactical problems is all the evidence we need to see that something is causing them, and that spending time on the underlying structure could make a difference.
Seth Godin, When can we talk about our systems?

It's not just education, or racism, or healthcare, or any of the other things he lists. Organisations are made up of people, and most people don't like conflict.

As a result, we get a constant barrage of tactical responses to emergent situations, rather than focusing on strategies that would prevent them.

The more time we spend on purposeful reflection, the less time we spend putting out fires.

An ounce of good sense is worth a pound of subtlety

Icelandic women's football team
🎨 The Opposite Of ‘Crappy Design’

🙄 In Convenience We Trust

😳 How Work Became an Inescapable Hellhole

🤯 The Supply of Disinformation Will Soon Be Infinite

👍 Non-Boring Zoom Breakout Groups

Quotation-as-title from Baltasar Gracián. Image from top-linked post.

Entirely predictable

We've had some pretty bad governments in the UK during my lifetime, but has any been so underqualified, so inept, corrupt, and nepotistic as our current one? It would be bad enough in regular times, but during a pandemic it's a tragedy.
Who knew that children go to school in September? Who guessed that hundreds of thousands of students head to universities where they – and easily shocked readers should look away – strive with every fibre of their being to mingle with each other as vigorously as they can? What clairvoyant might have predicted that, when the government offered the public cut-price restaurant meals at the taxpayers’ expense, the public would gobble them up? Or that, when the prime minister urged workers to go back to their offices and save Pret a Manger, a few brave souls would have returned to their desks and risked having “dulce et decorum est pro Pretia mori” carved on their gravestones?
Nick Cohen, The meritocracy has had its day. How else to explain the rise of Dido Harding? (The Observer)

Until next week!

Doug
Dr. Doug Belshaw is an Open Thinkerer, currently working with We Are Open Co-op to help make the world more open and awesome. You can hire him to help improve your organisation!

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