Post by Frank Connolly 26th August, 2011
During a discussion on elephant conservation a friend once commented tongue in cheek, “Wouldn’t be interesting to hear what the elephants had to say in an anecdote circle?” This was one of those crazy and provocative comments that quite often act as a stepping stone to an even better proposition. Right now, we need lots of good propositions because the Asian Elephant population which once numbered in the millions is diminishing at a rate of knots and now numbers less than 30,000.
Elephants actually do have their own sophisticated language but we are not quite at the stage of comprehension. However ….. What if we undertook the next best thing? What if we collected the stories and experiences of the people that know the elephants better than anyone else in the world? The elephant’s Mahouts.
In most instances an elephant and its Mahout are paired together at a young age and spend the remainder of their lives together. Collectively, the mahouts possess a body of knowledge about elephants that no one in academia or research can ever hope to match. Who better then, to provide experiences and insights that may assist in saving this species, which many are now suggesting may not survive beyond this current generation?
To assist the great many already undertaking elephant conservation work worldwide, Think Quick is now working with A Future with Elephants and has developed and commenced implementation of the Elephant Mahout Insight project (EMI) with a view to collecting the stories and experiences of the elephant mahouts across South East Asia and the rest of the world. Cognitive Edge from Singapore will be partnering us in this project by allowing us access to their unique Sensemaker software which we will use to both capture the narrative from the mahouts and to help build deeper insights and understandings about the elephant and its current, and future place in the world.
The insights gained will be shared with elephant stakeholders across South East Asia in a number of workshops where we hope to co-design new experiments, interventions and projects that will make a difference to the long term survival of the species. One of the most important premises of the EMI project is that we make no claims about our knowledge of elephants and how to save them, but rather we will rely upon the distributed intelligence of those that work with elephants on the ground in Asia. Our skill lies in capturing the narrative, helping stakeholders to make sense of the patterns appearing and assisting assisting them to design new ways forward.
It is important to note also that there are many elephant experts across South East Asia who are, and have already undertaken significant research with mahouts and we hope to incorporate as much of this knowledge as possible into the EMI project.
In addition to the opportunity to gain insight and design new interventions in this conservation effort, the narrative collected will also serve as an ongoing knowledge repository which will be made available to interested parties and researchers globally to aid in future conservation efforts. Of course as the numbers of elephants decline so do mahout numbers and their collective knowledge. So another reason this activity is a priority is it will play an important part in capturing the experiences of mahouts while we still have them amongst us.
This approach to knowledge harvesting offers significant opportunity for any group or organisation that is facing the issue of an aging workforce and the subsequent skills shortages that many retirements will bring.
We believe this is one of the more resonant and extensive knowledge management projects being undertaken in the conservation / sustainability space at the moment and we hope to report on significant progress over the coming year.
Anyone seeking more information or would like to contribute to the project in some way, shape or form is very welcome to contact me.
Post by Frank Connolly 5th July, 2010
I have just read “Bouncing back with Changes” by psychologist and former Treasury & Finance – Director of People & Culture, Tony Vickers-Wilis. Given an ongoing interest in positive psychology and a disappointment with the often overly theoretical training offerings we get in this space, I was compelled to see what Tony had to say.
Born out of an intense curiosity about what it is that makes some people bounce back from severe adversity and others capitulate with seemingly lesser challenges, Tony has set out to not only describe the science behind being resilient but also too provide real life narrative against which the principals can be demonstrated.
The book is one in two parts. The first dealing with the extraordinary life of Jim Vickers-Willis. I won’t go into details here for fear of spoiling the narrative for future readers, but it is a home-grown and truly inspiring story. The tremendous obstacles that fortune had placed in Jim’s way and the means via which he overcame them provides real meaning to the word “resilience.”
The second part provides a simple and practical set of seven principals to enable individuals to bounce back when adversity strikes, as it almost invariably will for each of us at some stage. The principals account for the CHANGES in the title of the book, and form a simple but powerful recipe for addressing anxiety, depression, stress and providing an appropriate perspective on surviving and thriving.
A third component of the book is the range of practical exercises provided to the reader for self-reflection as the science behind thriving is explained. These provide the reader the time and space to pause and reflect upon how the science might apply directly to their own lives and associated problems. Through simply undertaking these reflective practices in the book, I’ve made a couple of decisions that will not change the course of history, but will certainly benefit me going forward.
I think what I like the most about the principals, is that they are not simply a means of addressing psychological problems, they are a ready made practical recipe for building a happier and more resilient life, even in the absence of major issues.
“Bouncing Back..” is a book about individual resilience and I hear through the network that Tony is currently working on a new book looking at organisational resilience. One which is sure to be in great demand.
“Bouncing back with Changes.” purchase a copy