Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Butterfly Effect

Have you ever touched a butterfly or moth and ended up with shimmering powder, like iridescent fairy-dust on your fingers? Even when trying to help (such as when attempting to get them away from fluttering against a window pane to return to the garden), it is easy to damage them – partially because they do not understand what you are trying to do and hence are not cooperative.  When I was a child my mother and my father, although it was harder for him as he wore glasses, used to give me "butterfly kisses", which involved softly stroking my cheek with their eyelashes - the most important aspect of a butterfly kiss was that it was gentle.  There are many similarities between butterflies and business.  When you are trying to introduce change it is best to handle people with care, unless you want to hurt them and hence reduce their ability to operate effectively in the future.  Clear and honest communication is often the best way to gain trust and support from employees for a new plan.  Unlike a helpless insect, if you explain your intentions and the desired outcome, people are capable of understanding the vision and working with you to achieve it. 

Adonis Blue, rare UK butterfly

There is nothing wrong with ensuring that you present an attractive end result to promote participation – a bit like growing suitable plants or placing food out to encourage butterflies into your garden. As it is with people, so it is with Lepidoptera – different things appeal to different types (it would be a dull and very competitive world if we all only liked the same things).  Some butterflies and moths are attracted to carrion, just as some people like working in an environment where they are not forced to curb their worst behaviours (this is currently a hot topic in the media and on some blogs where HR has been blamed or defended for not curbing bankers’ excesses for example see ) others are drawn towards particular flowers or fruit.  If you want a wide variety of skills and diversity in your business you must make individuals aware of the benefits that are most appealing to them:

  • some employees want to develop skills;
  • some value having a great community to work with;
  • some desire a career path; and
  • some simply want a secure and supportive place of work that rewards them appropriately for their contribution. 

The latter is a more general need amongst employees (who doesn’t want to feel valued and to have a good place in which to work?), but increasingly people want a work-life balance too. 

I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do to do to make your workplace attractive to the people you require, but, if you like butterflies, there are some types of feed that seem to have a universal appeal – a good recipe that attracts a wide range of butterflies is:

2 cans of beer,
1 pound (500 g) of sugar,
3 mashed overripe bananas,
1 shot of rum,
230 ml (circa 16 tablespoons) of syrup
230 ml fruit juice

Mix the ingredients well.   Place in shallow dishes around your garden or paint the mixture onto tree trunks, fencing, stones or (if you don’t have a garden) place in a bowl on your window ledge (but be warned, wasps like too).
A butterfly’s wing under a microscope is even more astonishing than it appears when glimpsed as part of the insect resting on a flower.   As you can see from the photograph below, the wing is covered in overlapping scales made of chitin (the material that often constitutes the outer skeleton of insects).  Like employees, each scale is different and yet, all these independent pieces, working together in an orderly fashion, create an efficient wing to carry the butterfly forward on its journey.  Just because people are different it does not mean that they cannot work well together with a shared sense of purpose.

Butterfly wing magnified 5,300 times

Earlier this week I attended the Strategic HR Network’s International HR Conference.  There were some excellent speakers covering a range of topics from HR strategy and capability to cross-border leadership.  The value of diversity was a common theme, as was the need to adapt in order to connect with employees around the globe.  Some fascinating data was shared, some of which surprised me, for example according to research by a leading firm of consultants, Japanese workers hold process in high regard (and are often shocked at the apparently disorganised manner in which their American or Northern European colleagues approach and complete tasks) however, they are less keen on individual job descriptions as culturally people are expected to step up to do what they see needs to be done rather than being constrained – the Swiss in contrast like to know clearly what is expected of them.  One of the thoughts that stuck with me since Tuesday is a phrase that was made in the opening key note about employees “wanting a career lattice instead of a ladder”.  I first came across this phrase two years ago in the book written by Cathy Benko, the Chief Talent Officer at Deloitte, and Molly Andersen, a former Deloitte colleague and organisational effectiveness expert, “The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance In The Changing World of Work” .  According to the US National Bureau of Economic Research, companies have 25% fewer organisational layers than they had 20 years ago – as a result there are less opportunities for employees to move upwards, combined with this more people want a choice in what they do and may opt for a role that provides them with desired flexibility rather than seeking upward promotion.  The current economic strain on companies, combined with enhanced technologies and available data, is resulting increasingly in organisations collaborating with what were formerly perceived as competitors.  Workers often are retained for a specific project and are then expected to move on rather than anticipating or wanting a “career for life”.  We are living in an exciting era of change and businesses will need to do more than simply make cultural adaptations to ensure success going forwards.  It might amuse you to note that the scales of a butterfly’s wings are made of a lattice with interconnecting strands.

Butterfly wing scale magnified 14,000 times

Most of us are familiar with the “Butterfly Effect” in Chaos Theory – i.e. where a small change in one place can have a huge impact on a wider environment.  The effect was initially defined in 1961 by Edward Lorenz (although he referred to a seagull rather than a butterfly flapping its wings, and only changed to butterflies later as they provided a more attractive image.)  The phrase refers to the idea that the creature’s wings can make minute changes in the atmosphere that could ultimately alter the path or even the existence of a tornado.  Lopez himself was trying to predict weather by using a computer model to rerun forecasts and determine likely outcomes.  He entered the decimal .506 instead of entering .506127 and the result produced by the computer was a completely different weather scenario.  It is hard to predict outcomes at work as even small fluctuations in employee behaviour can make huge differences.  However, as information continues to be disseminated at ever increasing speeds and social media maintains its growing impact on the workplace, I am happy to predict that the people outside an organisation’s immediate employment will have to be taken increasingly into account.

Mathematical illustration of Butterfly Effect - A plot of the Lorenz attractor for values r = 28σ = 10,b = 8/3
By way of an example, I shall end with a story told at the conference about the launch of a new product – instead of spending millions on marketing, the product was given to a leading blogger, whose opinion was seen as influential across the industry, so that he could trial the product and comment on his blog.  He was not an employee, the business had no editorial rights over his comments and he received no remuneration (other than the kudos of being the first person to be able to sample the product and tell the world what he thought of it).  His comments were spread virally, he liked it and the product achieved huge sales.  This type of viral marketing, using social media, is known as Butterfly Marketing.  On the other hand, when BIC launched a biro specifically aimed at the female market there was widespread outcry across the web ( ) and the adverse public comments have had an impact on sales.  The world in which we work and live is adapting, as we become increasingly networked; small things will make big changes for all of us, like letting butterflies loose, there is little control once the lid of the box has been raised.

Migrating Monarch butterflies

Given the theme of this post, it seems apt to end with the very 1970's video, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast, inspired by Alan Aldridge and William Plomer's book of the same name. 

The book won the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award when it was released in 1973 and the video became a surprising global hit.

(Roger Glover, The Butterfly Ball and The Grasshopper's Feast - Love is All, 1974)

"Come one and all to the Butterfly Ball...."

PS The original poem, written by William Roscoe in 1807, inspired the above, it is as follows:

The Butterfly's Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast

Come take up your Hats, and away let us haste
To the Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast.
The Trumpeter, Gad-fly, has summon'd the Crew,
And the Revels are now only waiting for you.

So said little Robert, and pacing along,
His merry Companions came forth in a Throng.
And on the smooth Grass, by the side of a Wood,
Beneath a broad Oak that for Ages had stood,

Saw the Children of Earth, and the Tenants of Air,
For an Evening's Amusement together repair.
And there came the Beetle, so blind and so black,
Who carried the Emmet, his Friend, on his Back.

And there was the Gnat and the Dragon-fly too,
With all their Relations, Green, Orange, and Blue.
And there came the Moth, with his Plumage of Down,
And the Hornet in Jacket of Yellow and Brown;

Who with him the Wasp, his Companion, did bring,
But they promis'd, that Evening, to lay by their Sting.
And the sly little Dormouse crept out of his Hole,
And brought to the Feast his blind Brother, the Mole.

And the Snail, with his Horns peeping out of his Shell,
Came from a great Distance, the Length of an Ell.
A Mushroom their Table, and on it was laid
A Water-dock Leaf, which a Table-cloth made.

The Viands were various, to each of their Taste,
And the Bee brought her Honey to crown the Repast.
Then close on his Haunches, so solemn and wise,
The Frog from a Corner, look'd up to the Skies.

And the Squirrel well pleas'd such Diversions to see,
Mounted high over Head, and look'd down from a Tree.
Then out came the Spider, with Finger so fine,
To shew his Dexterity on the tight Line.

From one Branch to another, his Cobwebs he slung,
Then quick as an Arrow he darted along,
But just in the Middle, -- Oh! shocking to tell,
From his Rope, in an Instant, poor Harlequin fell.

Yet he touch'd not the Ground, but with Talons outspread,
Hung suspended in Air, at the End of a Thread,
Then the Grasshopper came with a Jerk and a Spring,
Very long was his Leg, though but short was his Wing;

He took but three Leaps, and was soon out of Sight,
Then chirp'd his own Praises the rest of the Night.
With Step so majestic the Snail did advance,
And promis'd the Gazers a Minuet to dance.

But they all laugh'd so loud that he pull'd in his Head,
And went in his own little Chamber to Bed.
Then, as Evening gave Way to the Shadows of Night,
Their Watchman, the Glow-worm, came out with a Light.

Then Home let us hasten, while yet we can see,
For no Watchman is waiting for you and for me.
So said little Robert, and pacing along,
His merry Companions returned in a Throng. 
Book plate from 1860 edition of the William Roscoe poem

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Give and Take

Why do we do what we do?  Maslow had much to say on the subject, based on a hierarchy of needs:

However, Maslow’s view is very self-centric and, throughout history, there are examples of individuals doing things with no obvious benefit to themselves.  Of course, it can be argued that some people have showed charity to others out of a desire for respect, or in the hope of gaining God’s (or the gods’ ) blessings and securing a pleasurable existence after death.  Indeed it is prescribed in many religions that salvation cannot be obtained without a devotee undertaking charitable acts:  in Islam, “Zakat” (i.e. charity) is one of the five pillars upon which the Muslim religion is based; from early times Judaic and Christian societies have been founded on the concept of tithes and alms giving; and the Hebrew term “Tzedakah” (which translates as “righteousness”) is frequently used to denote charity and the obligation on an individual to do what is right and just.  The history of and drivers for Philanthropy are long and complicated.  That aside, the following quote makes me smile: 

“Anyone... can give away money or spend it; but to do all this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, for the right reason in the right way, is no longer something easy that anyone can do.  It is for this reason that good conduct in such matters is praiseworthy and noble.”

So, not much has changed since Aristotle made this statement in circa 300 BC.
Mosaic of Aristotle
In our consumer driven, capitalist society, I find it interesting to note that increasingly modern businesses are using charity as a means of encouraging employee engagement and enabling learning and development, whilst simultaneously undertaking good deeds that benefit and enhance connections with the wider community or achieve specific objectives.  Many organisations now encourage employees, not only to make financial donations, but also to give of their time, authorising at least a day per annum to activities that “benefit the wider community”.  With their employer’s encouragement individuals undertake charitable actions, such as digging and planting community gardens, raising funds through events, or cleaning/painting schools and hospices.   In certain countries globally this has become a national tradition – I love hearing what my South African colleagues undertake and achieve during Mandela Day However, although actively involved in a number of regular charitable activities, I still wonder what it is that drives people to behave in the ways that they do...
It is 20 years since Sir Adrian Cadbury, the former Olympic rower and Chairman of Cadbury and Cadbury Schweppes, headed up a committee that looked into and published a report on business ethics and corporate governance within the UK.  The Cadbury Report, actually titled “Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance”, made recommendations on the arrangement of company boards and accounting systems to mitigate corporate risks and failures (many of the concepts proposed have inspired and been adopted by the European Union, The United States and the World Bank, as well as UK businesses).  However appearing to follow recommended best practice does not guarantee ethical conduct.  It is all too easy for senior management to lapse into a tick-box mentality where, because they see that a box has been marked as “task having been done”, leaders presume that a required action and/or approach has been undertaken effectively and to the requisite standard.

Much has been said about the need for effective boards, with the right mix and make-up, to ensure appropriate corporate governance.  On the surface, the following, ”experienced, successful business men and women” and “experts in areas of finance and accounting”, look like the members of a potentially great board for a major organisation involved in complex, worldwide financial matters: the former dean of a globally renowned university (a respected finance professor), the former CEO of an insurance company, the ex-CEO of an international bank, a hedge fund manager, a prominent Asian financier and an economist who was head of the U.S. government’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission; all of whom met regularly, had substantial personal equity stakes in the business they oversaw (that should have encouraged them to act in the organisation’s longer term and sustainable advantage), were of diverse ages and experience.  They are in fact the profiles of a selection of the fifteen individuals who sat on the Enron Board.  It’s what people do, rather than simply who they are, that matters.

Returning to Sir Andrew’s alma mater, Cadbury (now part of the global giant Kraft Foods but still retaining some autonomy) offers an exemplary leadership development programme to its leaders of the future that not only builds up skills, but also is specifically linked to community and charitable works – very fitting and culturally apt given Cadbury’s history.  The Cadbury approach is well demonstrated by Bournville, the leafy and beautifully planned village that was established as a considerate (and carefully considered) living environment for workers, by the company’s Quaker founders, George & Richard Cadbury ( ).  Admittedly, Bournville is now run by a charitable trust, as opposed to by Cadbury itself; however it does show the caring face of capitalism which is being perpetuated by Cadbury’s leadership development programme.  By embracing CSR related training, the Company is remaining true to its roots and culture.  With the on-going governance scandals at institutions such as the BBC, in many of the world’s leading financial institutions and even within the UK Public sector, it is good to remember that there are some good examples of businesses trying to operate and conduct themselves with an eye to the common good - a stark contrast to the inappropriate practices and ethics of many organisations dominating the front pages of our Media.  It bodes well for Cadbury’s leadership going forward.  Sir Adrian should be proud. 

Bournville Village Park - illustration from 1931 leaflet
I am in Jersey this week (to catch up with people in the businesses and attend various board meetings and committees).  On Tuesday I finished slightly earlier than anticipated and was able to wander into St. Helier to grab a bite to eat, instead of having a late night sandwich in my hotel.  I found a very pleasant restaurant called Seven Angels ( ), so called because of the seven members of staff who work there.  Whilst enjoying some delicious local fish, I contemplated the importance of the number seven.   Many of us can name the Seven Deadly Sins (indeed popular films have been based on them) but in Medieval and Renaissance times people could as easily name the Seven Acts of Charity (also known as the Seven Works of Mercy), for the main part they come from Matthew 25:31-44 and are:  
  1. To feed the hungry.
  2. To give drink to the thirsty.
  3. To clothe the naked.
  4. To harbour the harbourless (i.e. to shelter the homeless).
  5. To visit the sick.
  6. To ransom the captive (which means to visit the imprisoned – it was common for prisoners to be responsible for their own food, medicine and general upkeep so a visit could be life saving).
  7. To bury the dead.

The below painting depicts all seven (can you spot them?):

Altarpiece oil painting of Seven Works of Mercy by Caravaggio, c1607
Without undertaking charitable acts a baptized Christian soul could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Hospitals were founded, lepers tended (they were often viewed as suffering purgatory on earth and hence were considered as being closer already to god) and almshouses were built – many of which are still in use today.  If you knock on the door of the porter’s lodge at St Cross Hospital in Winchester in Hampshire, UK (described by Simon Jenkins in England’s Thousand Best Churches as “England’s oldest and most perfect almshouse”) you can still claim wayfarer’s dole – a horn of beer and a morsel of bread.  It may seem an antiquated custom but it is one of the ways in which St Cross remains true to its Charter of Foundation.  However, St Cross, like many philanthropic establishments, has had to move with the times.  Bequests in fifteenth century wills and charitable trusts that were established centuries ago, for example to provide “buckets of coal for respectable widows” , have had to adapt (coal is not necessarily useful in these days of central heating and concerns over carbon footprints – the widows are more likely to appreciate and receive vouchers off their gas bills!).
Like modern leaders, today’s charities must keep abreast of the times.  Without being aware of what is going on, neither can take appropriate action and make a difference.  One of the most interesting charities in this respect is the City Bridge Trust (  In 1097 William Rufus, the second son of William the Conqueror, raised a special tax to get funds to repair the old wooden bridge that crossed the Thames at London.   This, the original London Bridge, was replaced with a stone one in 1176, by Peter de Colechurch.  He was a priest and head of the Fraternity of the Brethren of London Bridge.  This was the first stone bridge over the Thames.  London Bridge was popular and at one stage it was 900 ft wide with 140 houses and shops upon it.  Not surprisingly, it required constant maintenance that was paid through tolls, rents, fines for throwing stuff off the bridge, a fee for white-water enthusiast or foolhardy merchants who ran the rapids under the bridge arches and even a fee for being able to display a severed head on a spike (as happened with Thomas More’s after he was decapitated). 
1709 etching of Frost Fair with Old London Bridge in Background
The Bridge was at the heart of London’s growing success.  However, Henry III gifted the Bridge, in 1269, to his wife Eleanor as her bridal gift.  I’m sure you are familiar with the nursery song telling “My Fair Lady” how to build the bridge up again once it was falling down – this rhyme was inspired by Eleanor who, instead of investing the revenue from the bridge into its maintenance, spent the money on herself.  Increasingly, the bridge fell into disrepair but, appreciating its value to the community (and also the fact that bridge building was encouraged by The Church and seen as an act of piety), the good people of London took action and restored London Bridge and a monastic order was made responsible for the maintenance and the money.  The revenue raised was solely to be spent “to the glory of God and maintenance of the bridge” via the Bridge House Estate.  Over the years, as London’s prosperity grew, so did that of the Bridge – the Estate built another bridge with the profits – Blackfriars - purchased Southwark Bridge and, just over a century ago, built Tower Bridge.

London Bridge, nursery rhyme illustration by Walter Crane from Baby's Bouquet
Realising that it had surplus funds (even when a significant amount was kept in reserve to repair/replace any of the bridges), the Bridge House Estate sought a change in its charitable status late last century.  It now spends the interest (circa £15 million) from its existing funds on charities to address poverty and degradation in London.  It is working to resolve current significant social issues (such as helping the ¼ of young Londoners who are no longer in education and are becoming a “lost generation” without employment; addressing London pensioner poverty - it is at 29% in the City, as opposed to 19% outside inner London; working to help the 82% of London prisoners whose writing is below that expected of an 11 year old; addressing causes and supporting victims of some of the71,000 domestic violence issues that occur in London every year; and helping the desperate - do you know that there have now been more suicides amongst the veterans than there were actual deaths in the Falkland’s War?).  It’s good to know that there are people out there trying to make the world a better place, especially when the economic environment is resulting in significant cuts in public funding – local authority funding is down £382 million in the UK in 2012/2013 and this will be at £822 million by 2016.

Perhaps people do what they do because they can imagine what the world would be like if they did not.  Maybe Maslow’s hierarchy is correct and we all are self-centric, even when working for the benefit of the wider community.  Regardless of what drives us, I find it hugely encouraging to know that there are organisations, like Cadbury and the City Bridge Trust, that are doing their bit to build bridges between people and  improve life for so many.  We too, as leaders, need to demonstrate the approaches and attitude that we expect to see in others – maybe then we will have fewer scandals to peruse in the press.
Building new London Bridge with Old London Bridge in the background

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Looking Ahead - Are You LOL-ing Around?

Workforce planning is becoming increasingly important for organisations that want a sustainable and successful future - not just short term recruitment activities, to fill current requirements, but strategic planning with forethought - anticipating and determining what (and hence who) will be required in the years to come.  I appreciate that most of the people reading this will be favourably disposed towards technology and social media - seeing them as an effective form of interaction, enabling enhanced collaboration and the sharing of knowledge.  I would go further, in the future, work will increasingly occur virtually - with individuals forming teams and working together, across geographic and business borders, to achieve shared objectives, without necessarily meeting face-to-face or even working for the same employer.

The leaders of the future will have to be able to guide, inspire and motivate others, without relying on traditional command and control approaches and/or having employees reporting to them who are located in the same physical space.  They will need to have the ability to plan, be swiftly responsive, inspire and communicate with remotely located, but unified (even if only temporarily) teams to achieve results.  As an HR professional, who is aware of the demographic challenges looming towards us, as well as the pace of change that is resulting in new skills and attitudes being needed within business, I am alert to the necessity to secure required, but still developing, capabilities to ensure the success of the workplaces of the future.  The issue is where to find those emerging skills demonstrably in action today and then how to attract and retain the people who have them, to support the business going forward.

When I was looking at introducing an apprenticeship programme into a leading financial services retailer, an area where we knew we would have an ongoing requirement was within the customer contact centres.  We also could predict that increasingly customers would want not just snail-mail, email or telephone contact, they would expect web and mobile enabled support with live and interactive communication.  I advocated that school leavers, with their honed abilities to text and observe occurrences on multiple screens simultaneously, were already demonstrating the skills we would require going forward.  We and they could benefit from the skills they had developed through their own activities with friends and areas of interest.  Armed forces and the health sector have picked up on the ability that many, predominantly younger members of our societies, have to use technology to control remote objects with dexterity and accuracy – operations are now done using instruments controlled by humans watching and responding via computer screens and drones are controlled in countries far removed from the sites that they are observing.  This trend will increase as businesses increasingly find ways to capitalise on individuals’ skills without the need to transport them to physical locations, which takes time and is expensive.  Even the recent James Bond film, Skyfall, makes the point that skills required for success are changing fast (Q is very different from his forebears).

I am probably biased, one of my sons is captain of his university’s  League of Legends gaming team.  They have a big match next weekend, against some 335 formidable global academic institutions, including Oxford, Seoul National, MIT and Trinity College Dublin ( ), when they take part in the Azubu Collegiate Champions league event.  However, I think that many of the skills businesses will need in the future can be found in the behaviours and aptitude of the participants in the on-line leisure activities of now.

Here follows a guest post written by my youngest son - it was composed to defend the viability of certain games as extracurricular activities and to encourage schools into allowing pupils to take part in on-line games such as League of Legends, he makes some valid points, that businesses as well as academic institutions might do well to heed:

“The gaming industry has been growing exponentially over recent years (now estimated to be worth in excess of $80 Billion), and one variety of games in particular has seen a surge in popularity. These are known as MOBAs, or Massive Online Battle Arenas, and at the risk of being branded a ‘crusty vegger’, I’d like to talk about them, and gaming in general.

       I was hesitant about choosing this subject matter, but, like it or not, games are playing an increasingly large role in our society. A recent ‘League of Legends’ competition received tens of millions of views - more than many conventional sporting events, and this same game logs over a billion hours of play each month. Although gamers aren’t typically associated with the endurance and strength of sportsmen, with several T.V. networks following teams as they train and compete in tournaments, gamers are becoming the athletes of this digital age. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

digital athlete
not so digital athletes
       In the interest of having an open mind, you must first peel yourself away from the stereotyping of acne-plagued gamers, wasting away in their bedrooms or parent’s basements. Although there are people passing out in front of their computers, in the majority of cases their mental health was already a shambles. See gaming instead in the same light as football. Neither is addictive, as that refers to the basic altering of brain chemistry. What they are is compulsive. They can both fill gaps in someone’s life. Had a row with parents? Go kick a ball around. Failing in academia? You can succeed at sport instead. But people in these situations should be trying to fix the holes that have grown in their lives, instead of blaming footie and gaming for creating them.

         Once you’ve seen through the smog of hype and hysteria fuelled by sensationalist journalism, you can begin to appreciate the good side of games. MOBAs are by far the most popular kind of game, and they improve timing, planning, teamwork, lateral thinking, communication, coordination, and they’ve been shown relieve stress. For these reasons, many schools in America and Asia have adopted games both as educative tools and extra-curricular activities. They engage students, and the competition they create, often between schools, incentivises working to improve. This same quality of working at something to get better is then translated to the classroom, meaning that the academic performance of students in these schools has heightened notably. Due to the positive effects gaming has had in schools elsewhere, this year universities across England will be preparing for the first official tournament of its kind. Oxford, Imperial, Cambridge, UCL and other respected universities will be brought together by participating in and broadcasting e-sports.

   I know I’m preaching to the choir with a lot of you, but some people who I talk to are afraid of giving games a try, as ‘there is no point’, and they fear they will become addicted. But the same people don’t question watching season after season of ‘Jersey Shore’ *shudder*. In League of Legends, which is what I play, there are 5 a side teams, meaning teamwork is required if you want to win, and I’ve grown closer to many friends by playing matches with them. Some of these friends have moved abroad, and this remains an entertaining way of staying in touch. In this way, gaming is a perfectly valid way to nurture aspects of your personality, or just relax with a group of friends. And perhaps in some forms it can be pointless, just fiddling with gravel at the side of the road of life, but it is fun, and to quote John Lennon (or perhaps Bertrand Russell)-

‘The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.’”

lolling around!