5th March 2010: ARC Bootstrap Process

House cleaning, gardening, and article writing.

Working through the assessment exercises from Timothy Baldwin, William Bommer and Robert Rubin’s textbook Developing Management Skills: What Great Managers Know and Do (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008), book site here.

Watched Stanford entrepreneurship lecture on Adding Value to Companies.

Martin Van Creveld on a 1998 television interview: soft-spoken, dismisses claims that the ‘future of war’ will be dominated by ‘cyberterrorism’ and other Revolution in Military Affairs trends.

A colleague told me this week of how a professor used the Australian Research Council‘s national competitive grants program as a bootstrap process for promotion to dean. First, they established their expertise, publication track record, and created a cross-institutional and collaborative research team. Second, they split the ARC grant proposal into different components, delegated each to different team members, and then reassembled them into a completed proposal. Third, they ramped up the number of applications to 15-to-20 per year, with a 50% success rate. The grant revenues made a significant contribution to the department funding. The professor was soon promoted to dean.

4th March 2010: Macquarie Edge

‘Pair of hands’ project finishes: debriefs for process improvements and advice provision.

Tonight, I attended a Melbourne Business School (MBS) talk on the changing investment landscape. In reality, it was a case study and walkthrough of Macquarie Group’s online retail trading platform Macquarie Edge, with speaker James Leplaw, head of Direct Investing at Macquarie Direct. The talk was far more than a sales pitch though, due to the Leplaw”s candour and willingness to talk about the decision traps and execution mistakes.

Continue reading “4th March 2010: Macquarie Edge”

3rd March 2010: Market St Dumplings

‘Pair of hands’ work continues.

Subjects during tonight’s dumpling dinner at Market St with Ben Eltham and partner Sarah-Jane Woulahan: how Everett M. Rogersdiffusion of innovation theory can be applied to customer demand for dumplings; Pavement‘s much-anticipated set at the 2010 Golden Plains Festival; what qualities empower an office space to support a team’s creativity; if underground emo band Forlorn Gaze would do a hospital tour like Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison (1968); how Ben manages to keep up-to-date on current issues for Crikey and New Matilda; and current projects. Thanks, Ben and SJ, for dinner.

2nd March 2010: Fool’s Gold

‘Pair of hands’ editing and budget development on a research tender.

Finished reading Gillian Tett‘s book Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets, and Unleashed a Catastrophe (New York: The Free Press, 2009). Tett’s social anthropology perspective highlights the role of securitisation and financial innovation in the 2007-09 global financial crisis. Most of her sources appear to be a J.P. Morgan cohort, interviews with J.P. Morgan Chase chief executive officer Jamie Dimon, and industry conferences such as the European Securitisation Forum. Tett believes the J.P. Morgan cohort pioneered collateralised debt obligations in the mid-1990s and that this ‘super-senior debt’ had a pivotal role in the crisis. Fool’s Gold is most interesting when Tett describes the cohort’s original goals and the CDO innovation-to-market process; although Dimon is also portrayed as a savvy corporate philosopher and details-oriented manager.

In response to a Geert Lovink post on blind peer review in academia, Barry Saunders and academic friends tweet this process in an open ecosystem. My take? Many authors will already know who their critics are if there are clear personal agendas rather than constructive suggestions on how to improve an article. Look at the list of associate editors when applying to a ‘target’ journal as they will probably review your work. There are ways to handle ‘rejoinder’ processes – such as to show the internal inconsistencies between positive and negative reviewers. Many academic journals now use a hybrid approach.

In November, Ben Eltham and I wrote a conference paper and presentation on Twitter’s role in Iran’s 2009 election crisis. It’s been read by Australia’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and been heavily downloaded. Today, Ben received news that University of East London senior lecturer Terri Senft has used our paper in her coursework on digital media culture here. Check out Terri’s personal site, LinkedIn profile, and LiveJournal blog.

1st March 2010: Bruny Island Cruises and ARC Discovery

Still feeling ill after yesterday’s Bruny Island Cruises eco-tour trip to Adventure Bay and a seal colony in the Great Southern Ocean. Amazing scenery and crew, but we hit rough weather on the way back, perhaps in part due to a tsunami warning. At a few points we feared the boat might capsize. Kenneth Kamler’s book Surviving the Extremes (2004) takes on a new meaning.

Lessons from sorting out a GPS that failed Sunday morning: Customers in a time-critical bind want a solution, not ‘shifting the blame’. Frontline staff need ‘decision rights’ and not to rely on managers who can’t be contacted at weekends. Unless you check it beforehand, critical technology will create revenge effects.

Today’s major task: finishing and submitting a research team’s ARC Discovery proposal. This has been a personal ‘shaping experience’. It takes a multi-university team up to ten months to craft a proposal. Apart from myself and the research team, the proposal had feedback from over 10 people. Advice to future applicants: read the ARC’s ‘funding guidelines’ and ‘instructions to applications closely; have lead-time to iteratively develop your proposal and form your team; and update your research impact and publication details in advance.

Alfred Hermida kindly sends me a forthcoming paper on ambient journalism, for a paper I’m drafting this week for the ERA C-ranked journal M/C. I picked up several Brian Eno events to review.

Wrote to Waldo Thompson on his website plans; Underbelly as a police-crime ‘repeated game’ in Australian culture; and its predecessor mini-series: Scales of Justice, Phoenix and Janus.

Several people sent me Larry Derfner’s Jerusalem Post article on Mossad and Mahmoud al-Mabouh’s assassination. Local coverage has emphasised Mossad’s alleged use of Australian passports for operational cover. Will this incident reinforce Mossad’s status amongst intelligence agencies and its reputation for careful operations? Or will the incident lead to a broader debate in intelligence studies about how counterdeception and operational security practices might, in certain outcomes, undermine an allies’ sovereignty? As an independent researcher, Robin Ramsay and Lobster Magazine is sure to explore this territory.

The Double

Don Webb writes: ‘1. There is a cheap out-of-print mystery novel by Don Webb with 24 chapters, each one keyed to a Rune. Buy it. Heck have a book club. It is called The Double.’

Anyone have a copy of The Sarandib Revelations?

Or an Austin flyer for Zandor Sinestro’s Circus of Terror?

Or know the Secret of the Brotherhood of Travelers?

The Double 1.jpg
The Double 2.jpg

The One-Species Dilemma

Dr. Michael A. Aquino once posed a central question of Setian philosophy to me. Rephrased from memory, it was something like: ‘Why is it that Earth has only one species which has the self-aware consciousness to create civilization, symbolic systems, and other complex manifestations? Why not two or more? What would it be like if there was more than one species?’

In this email exchange Dr. Aquino did acknowledge research into ape and dolphin communication, which perhaps has significance for Lilith Aquino’s Utterance of Arkte. I pose this as a philosophical, existential dilemma, and not as a position of species infallibility.

Within the Temple of Set, Dr. Aquino and others referred to this self-aware consciousness as the Gift of Set. Category 17 of the TS Reading List explored this in more detail, in the following categories.

Continue reading “The One-Species Dilemma”

19th February 2010: On ‘Questions to Consider’ in Don Webb’s ‘Concerning Words’

Don Webb’s Edred.net essay ‘Concerning Words’ (publicly released 16th February 2010) synthesizes two decades of reflection on several initiatory, metaphysical and cosmological philosophies, drawing on Plato, Chaldean theurgy, Crowleyan Thelema and Setian metaphysics. His focus is on the core Words that encapsulate these philosophies, the equivalent in these traditions of Thomas Kuhn’s ‘paradigms’ used in philosophy of science to describe conceptual revolutions.


Such Words have two key aspects for Webb: (i) ‘they are a label for a group or constellation of ideas’ that can be grasped by individuals, groups and movements, and (ii) they are performative or a speech act–Webb uses the term ‘magical act’ for a Setian and Gild audience. Thus, apart from the religious and metaphysical systems he discusses, Webb observes that Words can also describe a way to think about religious and sociopolitical philosophies such as ‘Agape’, ‘Communism’, ‘Democracy’, ‘Racism’ or ‘Capitalism’–and perhaps by extension to comprehend the past decade’s debates about ‘Caliphate’ or ‘Jihad’. There are seeds here of what could be a rigorous evaluation framework.


The essay has specific meanings for Webb’s main audience. For instance, he uses the honorific ‘Prince of Darkness’ both to describe the Egyptian god Set as an independent metaphysical entity, and as a symbol of the human ability to conceptualize new horizons and then to bring them into being–with both positive and negative aspects. However, Webb makes observations that may have relevance to a broader audience and to scholars from different perspectives: ‘Words are not the property of the human who Utters them’ or ‘The Utterance of a Law does not bring any new thing into being, but brings an anticipatory Awareness of that thing.’ In doing so, he challenges the assumptions held by many adherents who would ascribe a Word solely to a specific guru or individual.


At the essay close, Webb poses nine ‘Questions to Consider’ as a teaching tool. Below is a personal analysis, which attempts to clarify the definitions and categories for non-Setian readers. To do so, I have slightly reworded Webb’s nine ‘Questions to Consider’, in some cases to broaden their scope, so compare with Webb’s original formulation.


1. Definitions of a Word


1a. Independent Existence and Well-formed Definition tests:

Does the Word exist–conceptually and ontologically–as an independent Idea that is differentiated from precursors and other metaphysical philosophies? (DW’s Q8). This raises various other questions: What ontological and cosmological assumptions does the Word suggest? What ‘boundary conditions’ arise? What are the criterion to differentiate a Word from its precursors? What happens when a competing metaphysical philosophy ‘interprets’ or ‘takes’ a Word?


1b. Descriptive and Meta-model tests:


How is the Word descriptive? Are there examples you can inductively infer from myth and history, or deduce observationally from people? (DW’s Q1). My rewording leaves open whether or not this leads to ‘individual success or failure’, whereas Webb’s original wording
would isolate ‘successful’ cases–I feel ‘double loop’ learning from cases of ‘failure’ or ‘mutation’ can be just as valuable. Abductive, inductive and deductive logics may all be used.


1c. Communicability test:

Can you communicate a Word’s metaphysical core in plain, everyday language? (DW’s Q6). This raises various other questions: Who are the intended and unintended audiences of the communication? How does a different medium affect the reception of a Word’s message? If there was no School as a (sustainable) organizational form, how would a Word be communicated? What happens when a Word fails to be communicated, and dies?


2. Knowledge Base


2a. Knowledge Base – Organisational Alignment test.


Does the Word resonate with and expand the Knowledge Base? (DQ’s Q4). Is it aligned with the host organization? Two reasons apart from personality conflicts are suggested here for the history of schisms in (so-called) initiatory organizations: (i) a change to the Knowledge Base core that differs from a periphery; and (ii) a Word that challenges the form, boundaries and the custodianship/governance functions of the host organization. This may be a failure of communicability (1c), a failure of apprehension or diffusion (1b), or the perceived Need for a new organizational form that triggers an institutional power conflict. (1a).


2b. Knowledge Base – Temporal Matrices test.


Can you Understand, broadly and deeply, how the Word relates to and compares with other metaphysical philosophies? (DW’s Q7). This Understanding may be both diachronic (evolving through time) and synchronic (the present). Aleister Crowley’s ‘Curse of the Magus’, like Kuhn’s ‘gestalt-switch’ between different paradigms, is in part because definition (1a) can dramatically change temporal awareness (2b), which leads to communicability and diffusion problems (1c and 1b). Herein lies the metaphysical justification usually posited for a School’s existence as a non-Hobbesian initiatory environment.


3. Personal Axiology

3a. Core Self and Personal Philosophy tests.


Does the Word bring metaphysical clarity and significance to your life? (DW’s Q5). Is it immediately graspable, but refine-able over a lifetime? (DW’s Q3). This is the apprehension and reception of the Word into the core self (1a, 1b, and 2b). In part, this is the goal, practice and life-orientation of ethics, axiology and metaphysical philosophy. For individuals, it may be a sign that apprehension (1a), induction (1b), and temporal reorientation (2b) have occurred. This is one function of ‘conversion’ in religious belief systems, and more subtly, one potential role the Daimon might play in Platonic, Jungian and Thelemic metaphysics. In psychology, it may be found in the work of Roberto Assagioli, Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, Viktor Frankl, and James Hillman, amongst others. For Teachers it may suggest successful transmission (1c), and organizational alignment (2a). This is the generative source of forms/kata in martial arts, personal conceptualizations of methodologies, and of Teacher-Student transmission in Zen and other traditions.


3b. Praxis test.


How is the Word prescriptive? Is it an injunctive that offers guidance and self-volition? Does it clarify actions you Need to take in your life? (DW Q2). This is the extension of the aligned, core self to the world (3a). This is perceived in George Gurdjieff’s ‘Way of Golgotha’ in revolutionary Russia, Aleister Crowley’s mountain climbing, and in Michael A. Aquino’s decision to recast the Order of the Trapezoid at Wewelsburg in terms of the Grail quest. It is also the focus of guidebooks like Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger (1961), Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising (1982) or manuals on Method acting, consciousness studies, hypnosis and
neuro-linguistic programming–provided you do the exercises. This is the observable manifestation of self-initiatory work over a career (1b and 1c). It is also perhaps the best defense against Stephen Edred Flowers’ ‘occultizoid nincompoop’.


3c. Resonance test.


Does the Word resonate deeply with your life, emotions, embodied cognition and actions? (DW Q9).This is the extension of the Word as a life-anchor, through time, despite Hazard and the Law of Accident. At an individual level, it is strengthened through clarity, focus, and aligned action (3a and 3b). It empowers the individual to communicate (1c), and via their deeds, for the School to survive as a viable organizational form (2a), through time (2b). In part, this is George Gurdjieff’s ‘three lines of work’: for individual, for group, and for School or tradition.

18th February 2010: Seven Lessons From An Unknown Teacher

This post briefly discusses some lessons that LHP and Rune-Gild practitioners can learn from the Graeco-Armenian magus George Gurdjieff and the orthodox Gurdjieff Foundation, based in New York.


This personal interpretation remanifests a series of email dialogues with Vesa Itti, and with Petri Laakso in late 1997-early 1998 around the time of his IV* Recognition in the Temple of Set. In a follow-up entry I will discuss some of the limitations and criticisms.


I don’t speak for the Foundation, the Temple, or the Gild, just myself.


1. A Transcultural Mission from Syncretic Cultural and Religious Sources. Gurdjieff’s advice to ‘Take the ‘wisdom’ of the East and the ‘energy’ of the West and then seek’ foreshadows Eranos, Esalen, the Integral Institute, and the current interest in integrative, holistic frameworks. Part of the recent growth in academic Gurdjieff Studies such as Jacob Needleman and J. Walter Driscoll is a renewed attention to reconstructing and synthesizing the diverse sources that Gurdjieff tapped in the Caucasus, the Hindu Kush, Tibet, Egypt, India, and elsewhere, in pursuit of the Akhaldan Society and the Sarmoung Brotherhood. Graham Hancock fans, take note.

2. Embodied Forms of Initiatory Practice. The reading sessions for the legominism Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950), the ‘Teacher of Dances’ guise and Movement performances, the ‘Toast of Idiots’ dinners, the ‘Stop!’ exercises, and the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann piano collaborations all point to a practice-based cultivation of ’embodied’ awareness. This experience is central to an effective group and is not always emphasised in the various books on Gurdjieff and his followers.


3. Stark Methodologies. What is also clear is the starkness of the methodologies and practices in the Gurdjieff ‘Work’ in contrast to the Theosophical-inspired occult groups that G. viewed with contempt. No adornment – emphasize only what is necessary, the rest is baggage. One of the reasons for this is Gurdjieff’s experiences in the Caucasus, Turkey, Greece and Russia during periods of civil war, political instability, and revolution. Rather than Aleister Crowley this aspect of Gurdjieff — his experience of human conflict and violence — is perhaps closer to the contemporary experiences of New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, King’s College strategist Patrick Porter, author William Vollmann‘s distilled ‘Moral Calculus’; in his study Rising Up and Rising Down (2004) or University of Notre Dame professor and anthropologist Carolyn Nordstrom.


4. Heuristics to Understand LHP Methodologies. Contemporary books on Gurdjieff often focus on his self-described methodology of the ‘Fourth Way’: the fusion of fakir, monk and yogic methods of self-initiatory knowledge in everyday life. Whilst important, many of Gurdjieff’s other heuristics — the Law of Three, the Law of Seven, and the Law of Accident in particular — might be frames to test, contextualize and evaluate the appropriateness, effectiveness and unforseen effects of LHP methodologies. These heuristics refer to causal relationships, the flow of time and change, and unexpected forces that any practitioner or methodologist will face.


5. The School as Initiatory Laboratory. Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in Fontainebleu, France, is an oft-emulated model for groupwork. LHP practitioners also often cite Pyotr Uspenskii’s comments attributed to Gurdjieff about the role of the School and the ‘third line of work’ for the School’s growth and survival. If only they looked at what happened and why the Institute failed (and perhaps read some organizational dynamics literature by Barry Oshry or Gareth Morgan). These days Fontainebleu is more well-known for the MBA business school INSEAD.


6. A Model of the Psychecentric Consciousness. Pyotr Uspenskii has emphasized Gurdjieff’s model in his description of seven types of man, various centers, the psychology of initiatory experience, the Enneagram symbol, humanity as ‘food for the moon’, and the Ray of Creation cosmology. Uspenskii’s language was proto-scientific and anticipated the cybernetic models popularised by Timothy Leary, John Lilly and Robert Anton Wilson in the 1970s. Thus, some interpret Gurdjieff as a modernist rather than a traditionalist who drew on syncretic cultural and religious sources.


7. Aletheia. Over a decade ago, I sat in on an email debate between Petri Laakso and Vesa Itti on if Gurdjieff’s ‘Work’ could fit into Setian philosophy, the Farr/Crowley aeonic model, and what his Word might be. Itti and Laakso eventually settled on Aletheia as the Greek word for Truth-as-Unconcealment. In retrospect this poses several issues for orthodox Gurdjieffians. It is perhaps closer to Uspenskii’s idee-fixe on ‘self-remembering’ rather than Gurdjieff’s emphasis on observing one’s mechanical life and then trying to Do. It is identified with German philosopher Martin Heidegger‘s phenomenological hermenutics, and his Remanifestation of Aletheia. Trying to put Gurdjieff or any other person into these frames is difficult: whatever clarity is gained, something may also be ‘lost’, ‘fragmented’ or remain ‘unknown’ (with a nod to a certain Uspenskii book). Words will be Understood in different ways, different contexts, at different times, and by different people. Finally, this can be ‘wiseacring’ or self-hypnotic speculation: we don’t Know, we weren’t with Gurdjieff during his Oath on 13th September 1911, and in many cases, only have secondary sources.


Despite these limits and concerns, the Itti-Laakso proposition that Gurdjieff’s Word could be Aletheia raises some intriguing possibilities and directions that I will explore further in future posts.

Worth Reading: Stafford Beer-Brian Eno, M&A and R&D

Personal Research Program

The Stafford Beer-Brian Eno Connection: Alex Hough of Manchester Business School mentions how the cybernetics scientist Stafford Beer influenced musician and producer Brian Eno. Beer also influenced a generation of researchers and practitioners in modular organisational design, management, and systems thinking. Eno’s collaborator Robert Fripp was influenced by a precursor, John Godolphin Bennett‘s systematics.

START Bulletin Fall 2009: The US National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has just released its Fall 2009 bulletin
on its programs of research and major research reports. I’m always on
the lookout for ‘good practice’ examples of how to communicate the
research results to different audiences.

R&D Management
: Michel Bauwens tipped me off to a special issue on Henry Chesbrough‘s ‘open innovation’ and ‘open R&D’: looks very interesting. Journal article idea: Under what conditions might the innovation tournament be a more efficient allocative mechanism for R&D resources, human capital and commercialisation than other institutional structures, such as university-industry consortia and joint ventures?

SmartyGrants: An intriguing new package developed by the Australian Institute of Grants Management for grant-makers and grant-writers to manage the end-to-end grant cycle. SmartyGrants uses a subscription-based ‘software as a service’ delivery model, akin to Salesforce.com.

Mergers & Acquisitions

M&A Market Themes: NYT‘s Steven M. Davidoff on the US M&A market and Warren Buffett’s acquisition of the railway Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Davidoff’s new book Gods at War: Shotgun Takeovers, Government by Deal, and the Private Equity Implosion (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009) surveys the recent M&A market and deal trends.

‘Sell’ for Research Renegades
: Edward Robinson’s Bloomberg Markets cover-story showcases a group of ‘sell-side’ researchers who have gone solo. Robinson notes the good security analysts have gone to hedge funds whilst others have founded independent research firms. This is a model I suggested the Smart Services CRC look at during its initial planning stages for its lessons on commercially relevant research and human capital management.

The Myer IPO: Fairfax’s Michael West blames Myer for ruining the Australian IPO market for others. Three observations: (i) I agree with West that Myer’s private equity owners were driven by a macroeconomic/monetary policy timing window to cash out after their cost cutting and change management; (ii) Brokerages and commission-based sales provided an ‘echo chamber’ to talk up the Myer IPO so that the underwriter’s market-making activities are supported in the aftermarket; and (iii) always factor in market volatility into daily commentary — an 8% shift is normal in the current market conditions due to buyer-seller resistance, post-IPO speculation and different views of Myer’s fair market value — and the likelihood that the underwriter and other investment banks will attempt to stabilise the stock’s support level.

Noosphere Memes

Vale Claude Levi-Strauss: The anthropologist’s structuralist approach is credited with changing how we perceived primitive societies and their cultural and religious practices. He is probably best known in popular culture for naming the Fine Young Cannibals‘ most successful album.