flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘solidarity

Too Much Weekend

I’ll like my week better for a tidy room

A golden rose cheerfully in a crystal tube

But with a day spent alone

Working on streams distant from the streams of others

I yearn for the strains of the world outside

If I had a TV, I would switch it on

I’m glad I don’t

It would not give me what I want

The compulsive tug of collective movement

People going somewhere, maybe nowhere

Do I mind our destination when we move together?

I’m ready to join the surging throngs of people in the morning

I am not attracted to elitism; I want to hear solidarity

I really don’t like to hear talk about selecting the “top 10%” or managing some people, they so-called talent, differently from other people.  I am not attracted to elitism; I want to hear solidarity.  Partly this is a matter of temperament.  It is also a matter of technicalities.

I am a personnel psychologist by trade. I do selection.  Y0u can’t position a business to work for only a few people!  You will not be able to secure your labour supply.  And without a constant supply of labor, you simply don’t have a business!  So please, don’t be disloyal and ridiculous!

That doesn’t mean we treat every one the same though.  We treat them differently because their needs are different.  But we are equally committed and loyal to everyone.

Can’t do it?  Yes, we can.  I’ve run a class of 850+ students and I was able to run it with a policy that “each and every student was as important as the next.”  You can run you much smaller outfit with the same even handedness.  I am not going to let you off!

As it is Sunday, a motivational story

The Two Pots

A Water Bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes my water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, we would not have such beauty.

Love us for our unique flaws

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

We’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

 

Found on wow4u

 

 

Groups in action

Today, 35 000 people took to the streets of London to mark the G20 meeting of next week.  I’ve always been fascinated by group action.

Does your community act effectively as a group?

Do you prefer to play as a individual, or a team, or an organization or community?

Do you feel slightly despondent that groups around you don’t play well together, or play well, like the G20 demonstrators, but without achieving results?

Community action and the financial crisis

On Friday, I drafted a long article about the importance of group action to overcome the current financial crisis.

Today, I found this video from Kruger National Park.  The animals make the point so much more effectively.  Watch it to the end!

Are you the crocodile?  Are you the ‘pride of lions’?  Are you the leader of the buffaloes?

And wouldn’t it have been nicer if they buffaloes had find their stride a little earlier?

Here is the video to illustrate my point.  Group action is very important.

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A financial earthquake

For five years, I lived in New Zealand – earthquake country.  Every household was asked to keep sufficient food and basic supplies for a week.  I religiously rotated tinned food and bottled water (yep that too!).   And next to the food and water store was a medical aid kit, matches and candles.

The so-called ‘recession’ is not unlike living in earthquake country.  We don’t quite know what will happen.  But we know the worst could happen at any time.   And it makes sense to be prepared.

Some people are so spooked, though, they are doing the equivalent of retreating indoors and not coming out!  My colleague in the next office at work had taken some elementary surgery lessons.  When I lectured on intiative, I used to quip that a sensible person should buy a house next door to him!

So what is initiative?

What is an adequate response to the unpredictable and unknown?  What is a sufficient response to prepare us for whatever might happen?

Michael Frese of Giessen University breaks initiative into three parts.

Self-starting

Self-starters get going quickly.  When they are given a task, they dive in, explore, and make it their own.  Gen Y are self-starters, and they confuse Gen X and Baby Boomers who don’t expect young people to step up and own their work.

Self-starters also like feedback.  They continuously monitor what is working and adjust quickly.  Gen Y, too, are notorious, of course, for asking for feedback!  They are results-oriented.

Self-starters aren’t likely to be phased by a recession.  They’ve tightened up their finances already, and they are keeping an eagle-eye on their cash flow and credit lines.

They’ve already started exploring what their customers want in cash-distressed times.  And they are experimenting with new lines.

Above all, self-starters are asking their customers for feedback about their tweaked services.  Self-starters are quick to action and they are continuously monitoring whether their activities are taking them towards their goal.

Proactivity

Proactive people are not just quick to action, they think ahead.  They are the planners of the world.  Because they are so good at thinking ahead and planning for various alternatives, sometimes they seem lazy.  They are those quiet people who don’t have to run around.  They’ve played through so many scenarios in their heads, they are ready for whatever comes up!

The proactives among us have already talked to everyone who remembers past recessions and they are able to run foward-cashflows for several scenarios.   They are on the look out for opportunities and they are busy working out how to arrive at the end of the recession in style & ready for the upturn.  They may even be organizing people and resources to exploit new opportunities!

Persistence

Persistent people are not stubborn.  They are quite flexible!  When distractions come up, they give them full attention, and then return to their work.  German psychologists have shown, for example, that expert computer programmers don’t make fewer errors than novices.  They just solve errors faster.  Getting back to our goals is important.

Persistent people know how to ‘conduct their blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind‘.  They know their strengths and their purpose in life.  For them the recession is not a distraction.  It is another context in which to make their special contribution to the world.

What’s your pattern?

I was always a bit of a self-starter – I always started an exercise before the teacher finished explaining!  I certainly feel alive when I am out-and-about the town talking to traders and the people I am inviting to my community site, Olney100.

With age, I’ve become less proactive.  I’ve come to believe the world is less predictable than I thought in my younger years.  And I would like to have better economic and financial knowledge!  Until I do, I’m working on two principles. We will find salvation by looking after each other and developing new industries which have the potential to sustain our standard of living.

Though I am a completer-finisher, with all the turmoil I’ve seen in the last ten years, I’ve come to believe that positive psychology is key.  It’s important to focus on what really matters in life.  If something makes me unhappy, I consider getting rid of it!  If a mortgage is keeps me awake at night, maybe I should lose it or radically restructure.  I am a work psychologist and I live in a town of 8000 souls.  A company of 8000 employees is small for me – so this is not the best place to live!  Nonetheless, I like it, and the best thing I ever did was to write down on a piece of paper 6 months ago this question: how can I bring my work to Olney?

Positive theorists estimate we can radically change our lives in one to two years by focusing on those things that are deeply important to us and simultaneously important to the well-being of others.

If you are being pulled in several directions at once, maybe you need the courage to write your direction down on a piece of paper and trust to your persistent instincts to work out an answer?

Come with me!

I don’t want to be over prepared for the recession.  Nor do I want to be frozen in fear.  If I were to sum up the work on initiative in three words, they would be : mindfulness, solidarity and self-compassion!

  • Have you done what needs to be done and have you made your work-routines your own?
  • Are you working with other people and sharing know-how about how to do business in a recession?
  • Are you being kind to yourself (and others)?  Do you recognize what you want out of life and what you uniquely contribute?  Are you allowing your special contribution to this world to work its way to the top-of-the-pile?

[MSC : Mice Seek Cheese]

Creeping into our shells

Some people are already having a hard time in the recession.  I can see it on their faces in the village.  And I’m sure there are also many others who are having worse, and who are at home, deeply worried.

If you are one of them, and arrived at this post this weekend, I hope I might persuade you to think back to when you were a kid in the school yard.  What you really hated were the times when other kids wouldn’t play with you.  It was in these times, that we creep into our shell.

But not so, when the teacher took our ball away.  We didn’t go home, or shrink back.  Not at all.  We thought up another game.  And we stuck together.

Solidarity

Sticking together, or solidarity, is the key to surviving bad times, and enjoying them too!

Two poems

If you are still reading, I have two poems for you.  The first is called Wild Geese, and it is by Mary Oliver.   In short, it tells you not to beat yourself up, and to come back out to the yard to play.

The second, I stumbled on the web last night.  It is a love poem, by Nizar Qabbani, and though written by a man for a woman, it reminds us, that togetherness and belonging come from commitment.

Back in those school yard days, there was always one kid, who kept us together and suggested other games.

Come with me

Reach out to someone this weekend?

It does not need to be expensive.  A smile for people in the shops.  A chat over the fence with your neighbour.  A walk with a friend.  A companionable cup of tea.

You may not know whom, but somone may need your solidarity very badly.

Here are the two poems.  I hope they give you comfort and inspiration.

+++++

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

+++++++

Love Compared

by Nizar Qabbani

I do not resemble your other lovers, my lady
should another give you a cloud
I give you rain
Should he give you a lantern, I
will give you the moon
Should he give you a branch
I will give you the trees
And if another gives you a ship
I shall give you the journey.

+++++

P.S.  If you own the copyright for either poem, please do let me know.  And to the authors, I thank you.

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It begins

Earlier today, I asked a professional services provider why I was unable to book for Monday.   She inquired of her superiors and that is how she found out that she had been made redundant.

Shortfly afterwards,  I completed a planned trip to Woolworth’s, and stocked up on stationery in their closing down sale.  It really felt rotten paying.  I got brilliant service by-the-way.  If you are looking for good talented  people in the Milton Keynes area, pop into the Newton Pagnell branch.

We stutter

@Pistachio, who is an astonishingly interesting tweeter given to pithy phrases, asked today:  what is the one thing you would change if you could?

This is what I would change: the lack of a coordinated collective, community response to redundanciesPeople should not be left on their own.

But do we fall?

Yesterday, I started persuading my village to join Twitter.  If we are all on Twitter, traders will be able to communicate with us more easily, and we will benefit.   For example, yesterday the Coop had carrots at 50p.  Had you known that before you left home, you would have arrived with ideas on how to make carrot-based dishes.

When I heard my provider had been made redundant, I undertook to find out rents and to investigate whether we cannot hire her independently.

And what help would I value  from you?

I do appreciate people who pop by this blog and make a comment.  I am very appreciative of people who’ve helped me settle well in the UK.

I want you to answer @Pistachio‘s question, but slightly differently.  I want you to think what you want for 2009.  Not what you commit to do as a type of New Year’s Resolution, but what you want.  I want to know what would make your heart sing and your spirits soar?

And then, flick Ian Jeanes a message.  Ian is organizing people with like dreams, and I will help him.

What is your dream for 2009?

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5 contemporary concepts for understanding why some groups buzz with expectation

Self-styled vagabond, Sam Brannon, asked a good question last weekend on Linkedin.  Are we in a state of learned helplessness?

I’m an inveterate shaper so I am always asking “is what we do important and are we doing the important things?” Because I ask these questions, it is possible I sense learned helplessness more than do others.   But, I am also much more interested in the the opposite of learned helplessness.

  • I love the crowd singing their local hero to victory.
  • I love the buzz of getting a group project done on time.
  • I love the feeling of belonging to an institution worth belonging to.

Indeed my love of that community buzz is key to my professional interest in work psychology and university teaching.  Sam’s post led me to list 5 contemporary concepts from psychology and management that, I think, are key to creating the spiral of group buzz and efficacy.

1 Collective efficacy

If we believe in each other, we add 5-10% on our effective results.  Collective efficacy is a simple yet powerful idea.  When the teachers in a school believe in each other, the school outperforms other schools who have equal resources!

Rule one:  The CEO needs to believe genuinely in his or her direct reports.  That process kicks off their belief in each other and in their direct reports, etc. etc.

P.S Faking doesn’t work.  The pre-requisite of leadership is genuine, heart-felt belief in one’s followers.

2 Solidarity

Rejection is enormously destructive.  Roy Baumeister, who blogs at Psychology Today,  has shown that being rejected by a computer (not even a person) is sufficient to stop us looking in a mirror.   Someone who feels rejected is not going to be feeling efficacious!

Rule two:  Don’t just walk around!  Walk around with a mission to create a sense of belonging.

P. S.  Be hyper-alert to the small minute and accidental ways in which we exclude people.  They are devastating to moral and self-confidence.

3 Personal Leadership

Social media (like LinkeIn) has awakened our sense of being at the centre of our own network.  Everyone is a leader.  The personal leader ‘school’ supports the development of individual leadership (see poet David Whyte).  I am also interested in organizations that recognise that everyone is a leader.

Rule three:  Tell our own ‘stories’ to show how the organization fits in to our personal destinies, and write an organizational story that depends upon our differences and uniqueness.

P.S.  A story that depends on us mimicking the boss defines us as irrelevant (a hole below the waterline for the organization!)

4 Positive psychology/positive organizational scholarship.

The work of Martin Seligman and David Cooperrider has shown the power of gratitude and appreciation.  Positive whatever-whatever sounds like touchy-feely stuff but it is pretty hard core.  Basically, it is an approach where we focus on what works and works well and we discard the rest.

There are good reasons why haven’t focused on what works well as a matter of course.  Simply, if we define leadership as one person knowing what is best, and telling the rest of us what to do, then we are always focusing on a gap – on something negative.

Rule four:  Scrap all the “gap” technology on which management and HRM was built.  Pinpoint what works and do more of it! Then keep the conversation there.

P.S.  Its scary to abandon the idea that we know best.  But when we get the hang of it,  we find out all the good stuff that is happening that we didn’t know about.

5 Globalization

Globablization has changed economics and shifted where and how we can make a profit.  We have to work harder now to create value that produces a penny of profit.  Working with this constraint produces fantastic results as we see in V.J. Prahalad’s value at the bottom of the pyramid.

The principle used by large companies to rethink their process is this: abandon the idea of trying to sell more and more at a better and better price.  Rather, ask what is needed at what price, and work backwards to what we can supply.  The ability to ask questions about the world outside the organizations is a key aspect of successful business teams.

Rule 5:  Forget about being a leader!  Ask how to develop a community who are interested in what we do.

P.S.  We do need to honour the community’s needs and trust it to honour ours (complete the circle).  When we don’t have this loyalty to each other, a buzz is not possible.  We simply don’t have the conditions for a high performing organization.  This is not the day!

[CSPPG : cheerful squirrels prepare parties toGether]

Everyday use of these concepts

I use all these ideas in running everyday projects, like university courses. I know students do better when they believe in each other.  My job, as I see it, is replacing their initial dependence on me, with, a strong belief in each other, a belief in their project of studying together in this year & in this place, and a deep pride in how they came to be here and how they will move on together.

That is the buzz of expectation that the whole world feels tonight with the US galvanized to get out and vote (or is just to get a free cup of coffee from Starbucks?).  That is the buzz we get when our favourite team makes the finals.  That is the buzz we get when you couldn’t stop us going to work even if you tried!

Have a winning week!

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in a blaze of glory

Image by Darwin Bell via Flickr

For the last two weekends, I ran a little poll here on your plans for beating the recession.  The full poll and results are at the end of the post.

Of the two score or so people who answered, this was the modal response.

I have only scenario planned the future INFORMALLY.  I am planning to 2010.  My business is YET to be affected by the recession.  I expect to grow 25% over a 2007 baseline.  I will find a RECESSION-BEATING strategy.

So are we confident or fool-hardy?

Let me add these three observations.

  • People who answer online polls are “geeks” or “geek-like”.  Maybe all of poll results are true.  We haven’t been badly affected and we understand what is going on sufficiently to improve our businesses.
  • A prudent economist friend of mine offers the following:  the stock market has dropped 50% since its peak of October 2007 (possibly more by today).  The average growth rate per year is 6%.  Assuming a good recovery, stock prices will recover their value in 50/6=8 years time (2016).  This simple arithmetic may be useful for people managing their portfolios or planning their retirement.  Notice that people in my survey (typically) assume 4x the average growth rate.  During coaching, some nudging towards practical plans might be necessary.
  • Before I left Zimbabwwe, and while it was already obvius that things were going wrong, my students ran a series of studies measuring and explaining “hopelessness” [not hope sadly but interesting nonetheless].  They measured “hopelessness” in various groups and NEVER EVER found clinical levels of hoplessness.

Explaining hope and resilience

Moreover, any one person’s sense of hopelessness could be explained by the level of social support they perceived from relevant others.  Here are some interesting results.

  • Wives of unemployed men looked to their churches for support.
  • Teenagers about to leave school after writing their O levels [school certificate/high school] felt more hopeful if they were supported by their families.

And feeling supported by their family was strongly linked to the number of family members having work or income

  • Working men in factories depended heavily on the social support of their supervisors. The mood of employees who were well educated and qualified was very much less affected by their managers

What did we take from these studies (and my little poll)?

  • People are naturally resilient.  They believe the best.
  • Social support is critical.

In hard times, it is very important for the management system to provide support.  This is likely to have a chain effect.  The CEO needs to show belief in his or her direct reports and they need to show belief in their direct reports.

  • Social support outside the firm is also critical and managers can help themselves by supporting external support systems.

Enourage people to remain within churches and sports clubs, help them stay in touch with their families and make it easy for them to do so.  Have we arranged for Hindu employers to have time off for Diwali?  Do we celebrate Eid?  Do we help people take time off for important events?

Collective efficacy, solidarity and business results

It is pretty likely that

  • collective efficacy (expressed belief in the importance and competence of our colleagues) and
  • solidarity (our willingness to support each other through thick-and-thin)

add a critical 5-10% onto our collective performance.

I wonder if there are any practitioners out there who are focussing on these ‘soft’ concepts and linking them to the ‘hard’ results of revenue in hard times?

Here is my original poll.  Thanks so much for contributing.  Despite my experience during other crises, I was still pleasantly surprised that we are so confident.

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Jane McGonigal, game designer and games researcher, specializing in pervasive games and alternate reality games.

 

Image via Wikipedia

IQ, EQ and now PQ

PQ is going to be the next big thing in work psychology and management. What competencies do we need for participating, leading and influencing in today’s interconnected world?

Here is a list from Jane McGonigal, the games designer who talks of the engines of happiness. I’ve found links to her work here, here and here.

1 Mobbability

“- the ability to do real-time work in very large groups

– a talent for coordinating with many people simultaneously”

Restated: My immediate thought is the ability to mobilize people for anything – a party, a demonstration, etc. This is a little more though. It probably begins with the ability to appreciate the dynamics of a music festival, or the crowd at a big sporting event. A Mexican Wave is one of the simplest forms

My questions: I get the feeling that I am missing something!

2 Ping quotient

“- measures your responsiveness to other people’s requests for engagement
– your propensity and ability to reach out to others in a network”

Restated: How quickly do you respond to requests for your attention and participation? Do you plan your communication systems so that you are able to respond? Do you anticipate the types of inquiries you will receive and do you update your communication systems to reflect the inquiries you receive? Do you initiate contacts and broaden your network? How do people find you and how do you find them?

My questions: Where is listening?

3 Collaboration radar

“the ability to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best collaborators on a particular task”

Restated: When you start a task, do you think about who can and will help you? Do you take an interest in what work other people like to do? Have you some kind of model in your head about how to collaborate with other people and what helps collaboration to be satisfactory or unsatisfactory?

My questions: Is this ability to engender collaboration? Or just detect it?

4 Influency

“- the ability to be persuasive in diverse social contexts and media spaces
– understanding that each work environment and collaboration space requires a different persuasive strategy and technique”

Restated: Are you persuasive and are you persuasive to different audiences and in different settings? Are you interested in persuasion and how other people are persuasive? Are you able to communicate through different channels? Do you understand the nuances of using different channels? Have you an emerging theory of when to use various techniques and why? Do you have some idea of what motivates other people in various settings? Are you curious about their motivation? Are interested in how motivation changes when we take part in groups? Can you predict what will individuals will do next in a social settings and what an entire group or community will do? Can you anticipate what individuals, groups and communities are willing to do?

My questions: The arts are so important, aren’t they?

5 Multicapitalism

“fluency in working with different capitals, e.g., natural, intellectual, social, and financial”

Restated: How much capital do you need for your business to succeed? What do you have now? What do you need to do to

Financial?

Intellectual?

Social? Whuffie?

My questions: What is natural capital? Is social capital tradable? Is the “securitization” of social capital the next political innovation?

6 Protovation

“- fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles
– ability to lower the costs and increase the speed of failure”

Restated: Do you “have a go” and look for feedback from other people? Do you pick small, cheap, easy ways to experiment with new things that don’t just lead to success but teach you something important when you fail? Do you learn the meaning of errors? Are they useful signals or just sources of distress? Do you celebrate the errors of others (and I don’t mean gloat!) so their experiences are seen as useful and valuable by everyone?

My questions: Has anyone linked protovation to self-efficacy (Bandura) and error-training (Michael Frese)?

7 Open authorship

“creating content for public consumption and modification”

Restated: Do you write, speak, make videos, etc. for other people? Do you expect them to take what you use and change it (mash it)? Do you judge your effectiveness by the extent to which your audience uses and changes your ideas?

My questions: Is this a major aspect of social media? That we expect our ideas to be an input rather than an output or expert opinion? Is expecting a reply rather than approval or disapproval the major behavioral shift of our time?

8 Signal/noise management

“filtering meaningful info, patterns, and commonalities from massively multiple streams of data”

Restated: Have you set up your data streams so that you receive information from many, many sources? Have you set up your data streams so that you can detect repetition (without checking our original sources), speculation, rumor? Are you interested in how information is passed around the world on matters that interest you? Do you streams allow you the benefit of serendipty? Have you got people (lots and lots) to consult when you are stuck?

My questions: How much have these skills changed from the checking of provenance taught in universities? How much can we transfer skills from one domain to another?

What have I still got to learn?

9 Longbroading

“thinking in terms of higher level systems, cycles, the big picture”

Restated: Having a “helicopter view” and seeing a problem from different perspectives have long been valued business skills. This seems to go further – to understand a situation in terms of its dynamics

My questions: If I am correct, then we need to see situations in terms of their feedback loops? And is this an important skill that kids learn when they work out different ways of playing a game?

10 Emergensight

“the ability to prepare for and handle surprising results and complexity”

Spot unexpected patterns as they pop up, and be ready to take advantage of them – even when systems scale in size and messiness.

Restated: Do you look of for the way a pattern unfolds? Do you look for changes in speed as well – from the lull before the storm to the tempest that will blow itself out? Do you look for small levers that have huge impacts?

My questions: Is this improvisation? Are we talking about good reaction times, or understanding complex dynamics?

Hat-tip to NLabNetworks and Andrea Saveri of the Institute of the Future who spoke at the recent NLabNetworks meeting at Leicester.

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I discovered Paulo Coelho this year. I am amazed I spent this long on this earth without finding his books.

His stories have mystical settings. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is about a woman and her childhood sweetheart who meet up again in their twenties to make a hard decision: should they get together or should he follow his vocation into a Catholic seminary and a life as charismatic and healer?

All Coelho’s books (I think) have a happy ending, but not a silly ending.   After many trials, the protagonists resolve to take the high road: living in solidarity with this world. These may be mystical stories, but they are neither fantasies nor escapist.

And the trials faced by the characters are never gratuitous. Each in itself offers a perspective on relating to the world and, I think, the tension between commitment and uncertainty.

They are a remarkably “open” read too. He has a light style that draws you into the story. And then releases you from time to time to ponder what he or one of his characters has just said.

Wikipedia describes the book as “a week in the life of someone ordinary to whom something extraordinary happens”. Read it at the end of a long week to ponder extraordinary people who live ordinary lives.


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