Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dr Nick Southgate


Lawyers On Demand introduced me to The Fun Theory and Dr Nick Southgate.  LOD Founders Jonathan Brenner and Simon Harper have long argued that lawyers should make their work and life more fun and challenge traditional career options: you can have the career and life you really want - it's just about making it happen.  They recently launched a series of free Life With Law events designed to open up lawyers' minds on work and life by offering new tools to think differently - not necessarily to choose the LOD path, they stress, but to make change. 

Nick Southgate spoke at the first of these free events.  He is a "philosopher turned advertising planner" who is now part of the faculty of The School of Life, founded by workplace philosopher Alain-de-Botton.  He runs, among other thing, the School's famous "How to Be Cool" class. His take on how we could all do work differently had the 100-strong Life With Law audience at BLP’s offices in London Bridge transfixed.  “The Fun Theory is all about using fun to change behaviours for the better. If you want to encourage someone to do something different, ie if you want to change their behaviour, the best way is to use fun as an incentive. The same applies to yourself. If you want to break out of old patterns and challenge yourself to achieve new things, to do things differently, then you'll have more success if you make that fun too!”

Nick showed us this wonderful video of a Fun Theory experiment, where the public were encouraged to use stairs in preference to an escalator at a Swedish underground station by transforming the steps into a working piano keyboard, complete with sound effects. "You would expect more people to use the stairs once they were transformed.  But what's amazing is that by the end of this experiment, the public actually queue up to use the stairs, leaving the escalator empty! Other famous Fun Theory experiments include encouraging people to use a litter bin by adding a sound effect making it sound like the world's deepest bin each time someone throws a piece of rubbish in it. So much fun, you even see kids scouring the park for litter to put in it!"

Having Fun? Legal careers? Aren’t these two phrases mutually exclusive? Well, that' the point of Life With Law: they don’t have to be. Hence Dr Nick’s invitation to speak at the launch of the new series of free talks, promoted in The Evening Standard as offering guidance how to get out of the rat race.  This first event focused on “the surprising science of better decision making” and “discovering the life that you really want.” The speakers were chosen specifically to help lawyers reflect and then be inspired to make their most ambitious ideas happen, and to develop the skill sets necessary to take them in their desired different direction.

"If you want to make big changes in your life, for example if you want to find a more fulfilling way of working, then you need to think of it in terms of a challenge to the old order – ie be very mindful of how you make decisions", says Nick. In other words, much like heeding the old adage: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Easy to say but how do you change established behaviour patterns? Nick's co-presenter John Purkiss, author of "Brand You", urged us to think about our “values” and “talents”, and not to start thinking about career options until we’ve understood these in granular detail.  Wise advice indeed.

For information about Life With Law's next events, you can follow them on Twitter here.
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Enjoyed a very civilised Afternoon Tea at the Houses of Parliament, as a guest of SA Law. Marketing partner Julie Gingell is Chairman of the Watford Chamber of Commerce, who had organised a Day Out in Westminster and I was lucky enough to be part of the select guest list. We had a tour of both chambers, Lords and Commons, followed by Afternoon Tea in one of the private rooms.

Our host at the House of Commons was Watford MP David Gauke, who has the very grand, and we presumed antiquated, title of  "Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury".  He talked to us over tea about his role. "I was very excited when I found out this was to be my title.  I thought it must relate to some very special activities unique to my role and date back probably to the time the Houses of Parliament were first built. But sadly I found out an Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury is basically Minister for Tax and this grandiose title dates all the way back to... 1994." 

So all the PR you could possibly want wrapped up in a five-word job title. Neat.

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A small handful of news stories turn your stomach and the Jimmy Savile revelations are definitely in this category. My goodness, how did we all miss this?? I remember feeling creeped out on my sofa at home just watching Jim'll Fix It on a Saturday evening in the 1970s. But still none of us clocked what was really going on. As one tweeter put it: "Jimmy Savile's decision to dress like a cartoon paedophile at all times now seems like the cleverest double-bluff ever."

Let's just hope some of the people who helped keep this under wraps are brought to account.  At least there are now moves (independent of this story) to tighten up laws surrounding failure to report child sex abuse.  And regarding the Savile case, the BBC has launched no less than three separate internal inquiries, no doubt worried by reports that victims are queueing up to sue on the grounds that the nation's favourite "Auntie" owed a duty of care to the children and teens taking part in its programmes.



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