Posted by: Adrian Colston | July 1, 2010

6 Degrees Mark Lynas

6 degrees – our future on a hotter planet by Mark Lynas is a classic book on the effects of climate change.

Lynas is a journalist but he has read widely around the scientific literate and has produced a book which catalogues the effects of climate change globally degree by degree. So the 1st chapter catalogues the effects of a 1 degree rise in global temperatures on ecosystems and people around the world. Chapter 2 repeats the process for a 2 degree rise. By the time we get to 6 degrees it is basically curtains ….

The book has also been favourably recieved by the scientific climate science community – see the RealClimate blog for a good example.

The book was published in 2007 but it is still very contemporary. Global temperatures have already risen by 0.8 degrees since the start of the Industrial Revolution and are set to rise further irrespective of what actions we take today as a result of the time delay of CO2 already released into atmosphere. The failed Copenhagen talks tried to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees but most people think we are heading for 3 degrees plus.

Read 6 degrees to get an idea of the chaos that will cause…..

Lynas has teamed up with National Geographic Magazine to produce a series of videos detailing the impacts of climate change at the six degree intervals. You can watch those video here for 6 degrees (other temperature rises linked are given on the page to the right). If you are pushed for time these will give you a good overview and save you the time in reading the book – if you want more detail – then read the book.

Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 30, 2010

Our iceberg is melting John Kotter

This will be a short review! ‘Our iceberg is melting – changing and succeeding under any condition‘ is a short book  by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber which summaries the leadership / change theories of John Kotter which I have reviewed elsewhere on this blog in Leading Change.

In this book the theory is outlined as a fable involving a colony of penguins living on an iceberg which begins to melt and therefore threatens their future. It incorporates Kotter’s 8 Step Process of Successful Change and shows how to outwit the ‘No-Nos’.

It is an easy short read (140 pages – c 90 minutes  –  of big text with lots of lovely penguin paintings) and we have a number of copies around our dispersed teams. All my staff who have read it have liked it and we often use the terminology and concepts now in team meetings! Get a copy and share it with your colleagues.

Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 29, 2010

Badger Timothy J Roper

Badger is the latest offering in the classic  Collins New Naturalist series, written by Professor Timothy J Roper an acknowledged and experienced badger ecologist. This book is an essential read simply because the badger has become and will continue to be a high profile and controversial animal as a result of its association with bovine TB in the south west of Britain.

The book is over 380 pages long and consists of 10 chapters – it incorporates the latest research (of which there has recently been a great deal) on badger ecology. For the general reader though it is the final 36 page chapter on badgers and bovine tuberculosis that will be the focus of their interest.

For most people, even those with only a casual interest in the countryside, bovine TB is seen as a terrible problem which affect tens of thousands of cattle each year. Despite years of research and programmes to eradicate the disease it is still on the increase and is spreading to the north and east of the country from its heartlands in the south west and west Wales.

Chapter 10 of Badgers sets out in a clear and objective way what is known and what is not known about the role that badgers play in helping to transmit  or harbour the TB bacterium to cattle. There are sections on why badgers are implicated in the TB cycle, how the disease is transmitted (is it whilst cattle are in pastures or when they are around farm buildings?), what control measures should be taken, badger culling, the infamous Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT),  vaccination policy and  TB & badgers: the future.

This is a complex topic but if you need you know where the science is with badgers and TB this 36 page summary is what you need. Unless you have a lot of time and are of a scientific bent going back to the original literature (and there are thousands of pages of it) won’t be for you.

Bovine TB regularly features in news items and with the election of a new Government, the imminent badger cull in Pembrokeshire (delayed currently due to legal challenges),  the cancellation of the vaccination trial in Devon (due to budgetary constraints) and the ever rising numbers of infected cattle,  it is likely to be a topic that isn’t going to go away quickly or cheaply.

The final sentence of the book spells out the controversy and the challenge of what to do.

‘However the scientific  case against isolated one-off, spatially restricted culls of limited duration, such as were carried out in the RBCT, is very strong.

The book is available in hardback (Top tip: Collins NN h/b 1st editions are very collectable and fetch high prices when they go out of print) or paperback.

Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 14, 2010

Purple Cow Seth Godin

Purple Cow – transform your business by being remarkable is a marketing book. It starts off describing a journey through France looking at the quaint herds of black and white cows – fantastic – quintessential – but after a couple of hours of quaint rural cows in fabulous landscapes they become commonplace and boring so you look right through them and ignore them. However if on your journey you now saw a purple cow then that would grab your attention……

In essence the books says in order to stand out you need to be different. The age of mass marketing via television ads is over – we all have what we need and most of us have what we want and even if we don’t, we don’t have time or the desire to be captivated by mass media advertising.

In order to launch new products they need to be remarkable. They need to grab our attention. The problem is what I want and what I think is remarkable is different to what you want etc. The book is about niche marketing.

The book picks up on the ideas of the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – how ideas are spread through the population like a virus. If we are to be successful with a new idea it needs to be remarkable and it needs to be of interest to the ‘sneezers’ – those people who are the early adopters who can then spread the ideas for us to the ‘early & late majority’.

Some of Godin’s mantras include ‘Safe is Risky’ ; ‘Dont be boring’ and ‘Very Good is Bad’ .

The book is full of case studies and includes strategies on how to identify and target the sneezers and sell then the Purple Cows.

The book is only 140 pages long, so for a short investment of time you get a big return.

Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 14, 2010

In Search of excellence Tom Peters & Robert Waterman

In 1982 Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote book entitled ‘In search of excellence – lessons from America’s Best-run Companies’. This ground breaking book has influenced a generation of management thinking and has championed the way organisations are run around the world today. 

In search of excellence  there are eight themes which are as relevant today as they were in 1982.

  • A bias for action
  • Close to the customer
  • Autonomy and entrepreneurship
  • Productivity through people
  • Hands-on, value driven
  • Stick to the knitting
  • Simple Form, lean staff
  • Simultaneous loose – tight properties 

    1. A bias for action 

    “A bias for action for getting on with it.”“What is striking is the host of practical devices the excellent companies employ, to maintain corporate fleetness of foot and counter the stultification that almost inevitably comes with size.” 

    2. Close to the customer 

    “These companies learn from the people they serve.”“They provide unparalleled quality, service and reliability – things that work and last.”“Many of the innovative companies got their best product ideas from customers. That comes from listening intently and regularly.”

    3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship 

    “The innovative companies foster many leaders and many innovators throughout the organisation.”“They don’t try to hold everyone on so a short rein that they can’t be creative.”“They encourage practical risk taking and good tries.”“They follow Fletcher Byrom’s ninth commandment: Make sure you generate a reasonable number of mistakes.”

    4. Productivity through people 

    “The excellent companies treat the rank and file as the root source of quality and productivity gain.”“At IBM the most important belief is: our respect for the individual.”“At Texas Instruments every worker is seen as a source of ideas, not just acting as a pair of hands.”

    5. Hands-on, value driven 

    “The basic philosophy of an organisation has far more to do with its achievements than do technological or economic resources, organisational structure, innovation and timing.”“Good Managers are legendary for walking plant floors to assess them on the factors the company holds dear.”

    6. Stick to the knitting 

    “Never acquire a business you don’t know how to run”“While there are a few exceptions, the odds for excellent performance seem to strongly favour those companies that stay reasonably close to businesses they know.”

    7. Simple Form, lean staff 

    “The underlying structural forms and systems in the excellent companies are elegantly simple. Top level staffs are lean; it is not uncommon to find a corporate staff of fewer than 100 people running multi-billion dollar enterprises.”

    8. Simultaneous loose – tight properties 

    “The excellent companies are both centralised and decentralised. For the most part, they have pushed autonomy down to the shop floor or product development team.”“On the other hand they are fanatic centralists around the few core values they hold dear.”


Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 6, 2010

The Heart of Change John Kotter

Kotter develops his case in his 2002 book The Heart of Change written with Dan S Cohen. They use real life stories based around the 8 Stage Process described above to highlight successes and failures. This book also introduces the importance of personal behaviours within organisations.

They state ‘People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings’.





Achieving a change of behaviour within each of the 8 Steps
Almost always the core method isSEE – FEEL – CHANGE Rarely the core method isANALYSIS – THINK – CHANGE
Compelling, eye-catching, dramatic situations are created to help others visualise problems, solutions or progress in solving complacency, strategy, empowerment, or other key problems within the 8 Steps Information is gathered and analysed, reports are written and presentations are made about problems, solutions, or progress in solving urgency, teamwork, communication, momentum slippage or other key problems within the 8 Steps
The visualisations provide useful ideas that hit people at a deeper level than surface thinking. They evoke a visceral response that reduces emotions that block change and enhances those that support it. The information and analysis change people’s thinking. Ideas inconsistent with the needed change are dropped or modified

 More information on the Heart of Change can be found on their website

Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 6, 2010

The Party’s over Richard Heinberg

The Party’s over – oil, war and the fate of industrial nations
In essence the book warns that oil production is about to peak and as a result massive changes will reverberate throughout the world. Indeed the future of industrialisation and globalisation is unsustainable.

The book is divided into 6 chapters.

Chapter 1 reviews the laws of physics, energy in ecology and the role of energy in former dominant civilisations. The key point in the latter example is that that former civilisations (e.g. Myas, Minoans, Greeks & Romans) collapsed because their energy budgets collapsed.

Chapter 2 looks at the rise of energy use from medieval times to the present – the rise of wood through coal to oil.

Chapter 3 describes the concept of peak oil – i.e. oil is a non –renewable resource . It details the work of Hubbert and describes why his work is so important.

Chapter 4 assesses whether renewable sources of energy can replace the oil based alternatives – they can’t and the book describes why.

Chapter 5 entitled “A banquet of consequences” describes what the impacts on modern society of the peaking of oil. It is profoundly and deeply worrying.

Chapter 6 is a much more positive piece of writing giving hope of what can be done at the individual, community and national levels in preparing for the transition from oil to renewables and a different lifestyle.

The book is a really important contribution to the changes society needs to make in the light of diminishing oil resources. It is a useful additional information source to the bulk of climate change literature. It makes it plain that climate change policy cannot be seen in isolation from peak oil issues.

This book is in no large part responsible for the Transition Movement in the UK which started in Totnes, Devon earlier this century.

The book is a brilliant analysis of politics, geopolitics, geology, sociology, ecology and economics. Essential reading – I urge you to read it and get your elected politicians and senior managers to do the same.

Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 6, 2010

The Transition Handbook – Rob Hopkins

An important initiative that sprung up in the south west in 2005 was the formation of the Transition Towns Initiative [1]

The Transition Handbook-from oil dependency to local resilience by Rob Hopkins sets out the philosophy and detail of the movement.

A Transition Town can be best described as  ‘a small collection of motivated individuals within a community who come together with a shared concern: how can the community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?’ 

The first Transition Town was set up in Totnes [2] and today there are over 100 TTs around the world and over 600 who are ‘mulling over the idea’. 

Transition Initiatives are based on four key assumptions:

  •  That life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable, and that it is better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise
  • That our settlements and communities presently lack the resilience to enable them to weather the severe energy shocks that will accompany peak oil
  • That we have to act collectively, and we have to act now
  • That by unleashing the collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognise the biological limits of our planet. 
How the Transition approach is distinct from other environmental approaches
(Hopkins 2008) p135
Conventional Environmentalism The Transition Approach
Individual behaviour Group behaviour
Single issue Holistic
Tools: lobbying, campaigning and protesting Tools: public participation, eco psychology, arts, culture and creative education
Sustainable development Resilience / relocalisation
Fear, guilt and shock as drivers for action Hope, optimism and proactivity as drivers for action
Changing national and international policy by lobbying Changing national and international policy by making them electable
The man in the street as the problem The man in the street as the solution
Blanket campaigning Targeted interventions
Single level engagement Engagement on a variety of levels
Prescriptive – advocates answers and responses Acts as a catalyst – no fixed answers
Carbon footprinting Carbon footprinting plus resilience indicators
Belief that economic growth is possible, albeit green growth Designing for economic renaissance, albeit a local one

 The table above helps to define the Transition Initiative. There are also six underlying principles that underpin the Transition model which are encapsulated in an Energy Descent Plan. The six principles are:

 Visioning – paint a future without oil where life has improved and developed

  1. Inclusion – we need to include everyone – not just the ‘green’ ones
  2. Awareness raising – if we are not all informed of peak oil and climate change we won’t act
  3. Resilience – the changes ahead will be very challenging so our plans need to include solutions which will survive at the local level
  4. Psychological insights – many of the barriers to finding solutions lie within our heads – psychology can help us overcome these
  5. Credible and appropriate solutions – we need solutions which are of a scale, resilience and sustainability to solve the problem

 In producing an Energy Descent Plan a scenario is agreed by the group, for example, as a community we must be oil independent by 2030 and we must cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030.

 A vision is then drawn up to illustrate the community flourishing in 2030 have achieved the above objectives. The final part of the planning involves ‘back casting’ from the vision date to the present and ascribing a series of actions that will be required every year across the following areas of daily life to achieve the objectives

  •  Food
  • Youth & Community
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Economy and Livelihoods
  • Health
  • Tourism Transport
  • Waste
  • Energy
  • Marine Resources



Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 5, 2010

Leading Change – John Kotter

John Kotter is the leadership and change guru at the Harvard Business School. He has written a number of seminal books – Leading Change published in 1996 sets out the 8 Step Process of Creating Major Change. This is summarised below along with the 8 errors common to failure in change programmes.

Leading Change John Kotter
Eight Step process of creating major change 8 Errors Common to
Organisational Change Efforts
Establishing a sense of urgency Allowing too much complacency
Creating a guiding coalition Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition
Developing a vision and strategy Underestimating the power of vision
Communicating the change vision Undercommunicating the vision by a power of 10
Empowering broad based action Permitting obstacles to block the new vision
Generating short term wins Failing to create short term wins
Consolidating gains and producing more change Declaring victory too soon
Anchoring new approaches in the culture Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture

More details on the 8 Step process can be found  here

Kotter goes on in Leading Change to compare 20th and 21st century organisations with reference to their structure, systems and culture. This is set out in the table below.

The Twentieth and Twenty-first century organisations compared
Twentieth century Twenty-first century
Bureaucratic Nonbureaucratic, with fewer rules and employees
Multi-levelled Limited to fewer levels
Organised with the expectation that senior management will manage Organised with the expectation that management will lead, lower level employees will manage
Characterised by policies and procedures that create many complicated internal dependencies Characterised by policies and procedures that produce the minimal internal dependence needed to serve customers
Depend on few performance information systems Depend on many performance information systems, providing data on customers especially
Distribute performance data to executives only Distribute performance data widely
Offer management training and support systems to senior people only Offer management training and support systems to many people
Inwardly focused Externally orientated
Centralised Empowering
Slow to make decisions Quick to make decisions
Political Open and candid
Risk averse More risk tolerant