Making Sense of Facts and Theories

“Facts are needed to establish theories but theories are needed to make sense of facts.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Facts are things believed to be true. There are different types of facts that can be distinguished, ‘real facts’ and ‘said facts’. ‘Real facts’ are those that are always true like not being able to walk through walls and ‘said facts’ are just plain statements which declare something as a fact but can be either true or false. One needs to be careful when declaring a fact because declaring makes it a said fact. Facts themselves need no declaration, not even in a theory, ‘said facts’ if true, are made true by facts. Theories, on the other hand, can be made up of facts or can be used to explain them. Theories do not depend on facts but their truth does. This had led me to explore the following knowledge question: how are facts needed to establish theories? While looking at history and natural sciences, we will see that facts are usually necessary to be able to come up with a theory. I will be exploring my knowledge question by looking at reason and language as the ways of knowing and natural sciences and history as the areas of knowledge.

In the area of knowledge of natural sciences, facts are needed to establish theories. Sciences rely on the scientific method which involves doing background research – looking at previously known real facts -, constructing a hypothesis based on the facts obtained from the background research and testing it doing an experiment which is based on observation. During the observation process, one realises ‘real facts’, those that do not need to be declared because they are demonstrated through the experiment. Therefore, once a series of facts are compiled, a theory can be established explaining those facts. The theory would not be able to be reliable if it did not have facts that made it a true theory. One decides if a fact is indeed a true fact by using reason which is what allows us to form a logical argument from the observations made. Also, language helps to portray the facts and compile them into a theory since if there were no language, we would not be able to establish theories from any ‘real facts’ since there would not be a way to transmit or communicate them. Theories need to be tested and they must be able to be replicated by following the original process that was done to establish the theory, so in order for it to be explained or replicated, it needs the assistance of language and reason to communicate the theory and evaluate if it is logical, respectively. A real life example is when we tested Newton’s theories of motion in my physics class by doing an experiment with toy cars looking at inertia and impulse, we had access to the facts that made up those theories and hence, we were able to put it into practice and see how they behave.
However, it is possible that give access to the same facts, different theories may result. This is perhaps because the facts were not necessarily true because they could have been ‘said facts’, just plain statements declaring something as a fact but can be false (as well as true) or because they did not encounter any exceptions through the method they used in their investigation if they did not try in different situations. If they were said facts, then the researchers, most likely, did not follow the scientific method and simply derived a theory from an assumption for a specific hypothesis. Since all theories are subjected to at least one exception, they might not be a hundred per cent true because the same theory does not apply to every possible situation that may affect the outcome. An example of this in the natural sciences is on the laws of gases which only apply if the temperature is kept constant. But then again, the temperature having to be kept constant may be a key fact part of the theory. It was previously mentioned that reason is needed to make sense of the facts obtained. Reasoning methods may vary from a researcher to another which is why some theories are created but are reviewed after a few years because they did not put the facts together in a more logical manner. An example of this is Newton’s Universe theory in which he stated that the universe is infinite and static and contains and infinite number of stars equally dispersed however, it was many years later discovered by Olber that if there was an infinite number of stars equally dispersed then, the night would not exist since the universe would be bright in all directions at all times. However, how is it possible to tell if one theory is really true since they are occasionally subjected to sudden changes due to further research and more accessibility to facts into the field? Can we then believe all of the theories we are presented with? Language also has an important role to play since it can be interpreted differently by different researchers and also, when it is translated into other languages to make it accessible for other individuals, some of the sense might be lost and might stop being a true theory composed of true facts. It is therefore clear that facts are needed to establish theories in the area of knowledge of natural sciences but often, the theories might be subjected to changes due to further facts being discovered.
In History, facts are needed to establish theories too. History needs to look at the facts as the evidence obtained from wars and past events to then evaluate and create a theory on what have been the motifs behind that specific event. This is a more controversial area of knowledge because even though we are all presented with the same facts, they can be put into a theory in different ways regarding to the individual’s beliefs or background. Given access to the facts about a war, the theory resulting might differ from one person to the other depending if the person is from a country that was more affected by it or not. A real-life example is the Spanish Holy Inquisition in which Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon forced everyone in their kingdom to be Catholics and executed those who refused to convert. From an open-minded point of view it seems clear that religion cannot be enforced on people. However, I have come across many strong Catholics who believe that the Spanish Inquisition was a good thing to enforce ‘good’ values onto people and that they even made them a favour helping them to get into ‘heaven’. Different people reason the facts in different ways and this is why extremely opposite theories for the same event are established. Also, these facts rely just on language found in manuscripts and stories passed down since none of us was alive at that time and hence, we cannot be sure if these facts are indeed true or if they have been subjected to any sort of manipulation.
It is important to know about how facts are needed to establish theories because they are the smaller bits of information we can obtain and make sense of to arrange them into theories. It is necessary to know that even though theories may seem to be true, they can still be subjected to changes once more research is done and more facts are discovered due to perhaps using a different way of reasoning or following a different investigation method. Additionally, different theories might result from the same facts due to someone’s beliefs or background and are therefore not always reliable but still, facts are needed to establish a theory, whether it is true or not.


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility is a novel by Jane Austen published in 1811 and focuses on telling a story of two young girls, Elinor and Marianne, Dashwood sisters, as they come of age. It is an incredible story that can best be understood in the context of the era it was written. The novel was largely influenced by the increasing popularity of romanticism that was typified, mostly, by William Wordsworth during the time. It is due to this that, as the title of the novel suggests, Austen deliberately embraces and cultivates aspects of sense and sensibility – passionate emotions and deep feelings. The author employs a variety of narrative techniques strategically to make the story captivating too the readers.

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By virtue of being a story, the plot is the first noticeable narrative technique used by the Austen to intensify her storytelling capabilities in the novel. A story is primarily a journey and plot is a technique used to identify the main parts and describe the events in a story – it is the foundation of a novel upon which setting and characters are established (Denning 43). Sense and Sensibility incorporates an excellent structure by incorporating exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and the resolution as the elements of an ideal plot.

Exposition refers to the beginning of a story where the setting is created and the main problem introduced. We enter the story with a very sad scene, Henry Dashwood dies, and before he does, he bequeaths his son, John all the family wealth and explains to him that his sisters, Elinor and Marianne, are not entitled to anything since they are from a second marriage. He further directs John to take care of his teenage sisters, and this is where the main issue with the story kicks in, his wife Fanny is not in support of the idea of John taking care of the sisters and also asks him to kick them out. They, therefore, move into a random tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere, and this is where the main story of the novel starts. This is when the rising action element of the plot is introduced.

Rising action is arrived at when the main problem or conflict is created by a series of events, and this is sufficiently portrayed in a story by the two main characters (Denning 46). Elinor encounters Edward, Fanny’s brother; they fall for each other. The problem, however, is that Edward is engaged and does not reciprocate or rather display his love for Elinor until towards the end of the story when he is freed from his marriage. Marianne, on the other hand, meets a Willoughby that she deeply falls for but ends up playing with her emotions by leaving her for someone else. These series of events steadily take a reader to the climax point of the story.

The story has an outstanding climax towards the end, and most of the events surround or involve the two main characters, Elinor and Marianne with most of the dramatic unfolding covering Marianne. Heartbroken by Willoughby’s engagement to Miss Grey, Marianne grieves to the point she gets critically ill, and her life is believed to be in danger. To help out with the situation, Willoughby elicits Elinor’s pity by demonstrating his regretful actions of abandoning her sister. Elinor, on the other hand, suffers in silence when she finds out she can no longer be with Edward because she is engaged. Edward, however, tries so hard to be with Elinor and the action he takes towards this costs him the family inheritance. Resolution and falling action are marked by Edward asking Elinor for her hand in marriage and Marianne recovering from her illness and finally realizing that she could have never been happy with Willoughby due to his immoral, erratic and inconsistent ways.

Characterization is also another important narrative technique employed in the story. The main two characters, Elinor and Marianne, and perfectly personified to relate to the title and the main concept of the novel – sensible and sensibility – in reference to romanticism. Austen models Elinor as an intelligent and loving but also adequately wise to realize that emotions should not be mixed or overcome good sense – she is, therefore, a sensible character. Marianne, on the other hand, also possesses these qualities except for wisdom Austin describes her “everything but prudent.” Marianne is very dramatic, and this is depicted plots and scenes she is in.

Elinor is depicted as the protagonist of the story with Marianne standing out as the antagonism. Stephen Denning (2006) defines a protagonist as a leading character in a story with many roles and purposes. A protagonist is usually loved, admired and portrayed in a saint-like manner. Such characters make the key decisions in a narrative, and the consequences of the choices fall on them. Elinor is a selfless individual who guides and sticks by her sister’s side regardless of the situations she goes through. Even when Marianne was ailing from the heartbreak, “Elinor fought for Marianne’s every breath and waited for every heartbeat” (Austen 67) depicting her kind and caring personality especially towards her sister. Her sister, the antagonists, makes some awful decisions especially regarding her love life that also impacts Elinor. Towards the end of the story, Marianne, to a large extent, values Elinor’s more moderate behaviors and conduct and resolves to model herself like her (Austen 330). All these aspects make Elinor and exceptional fictional character who draws respect and admiration from the readers.

As a romantic novel published and influenced by the era of romanticism, love, relationship, and marriage are the main themes of the story. Austen portrays love as a splendored thing and at the same time, presents it as a troubling thing. The plot revolves around love and marriage with most of the characters experiencing love at some point, others in relationships and marriages. At the beginning of the story, we encounter the first instance of marriage where Austen mentions Dashwood is married to two wives. The book then takes us through the journey of Elinor and Marianne who, in the beginning, are unmarried, go through a series of love and relationship experiences and then end up getting married.

Austin takes a deviation from the general perception of love being a beautiful thing to dramatize its potential harm and its dangerous sides. The author uses the relationship between Marianne and Willoughby to bring out the dangers of love. At first, the two characters fall deeply for each other, and at that very instant, they appear as a perfect match for one another. However, as the plot develops, Willoughby is a flawed human being with a sense of immorality and focus on material possession. This makes him abandon Marianne for another woman who she marries not because he loves her but for the wealth she possesses. The breakup impacted Marianne heavily to the point she almost died.

Another facet of love presented by the author is the element of the challenges a person goes through to attain true happiness, and this is in reference to the love story between Edward and Elinor. These two characters are in love with each other, but they are incapable of being together because one of them is secretly engaged. Elinor learns this but does not through everything away just yet but also does not demonstrate her love for Edward as much. Elinor suffers in silence as a result of this, and things worsen when Edwards fiancé, Lucy Steele, rubs it on her face that she had been engaged to Edward for too long for him to consider being with her. Edward, too, just to be with Elinor, loses his inheritance that goes to his younger brother. This goes to show that true happiness is not easy, it takes time, and it is accompanied by a series of challenges that need overcoming and sacrifices to make.

The theme of wealth and material possession has also been conveyed by the story, and the author ties it to the concept of love and relationship. In most instances, wealth does not go hand in hand with love in the sense that, the urge for money and wealth comes between true emotions in people. After inheriting his father’s wealth, John, under the influence of his wife overlooks his responsibilities for his sisters and instead of supporting them, he sends them aw­ay. Another instance is when Edward is blackmailed by his family to end his engagement with Elinor or risk losing his family inheritance; he chooses to be with the one he loves at the cost of all the wealth.

Lastly, and most importantly, the relationship between Marianne and Willoughby has been strategically used to demonstrate the role of wealth in a successful/unsuccessful relationship. After realizing he has lost his family inheritance and also highly driven by material possession, Willoughby breaks up with Marianne for a wealthy lady whom he does not even love. Willoughby and Edward have been used to show that the choices we make between love and wealth have consequences. Edwards ends up as a happy person because he is with someone he loves while Willoughby ends up regretting his actions and wishing things would never have happened the way they did.

Sense and Sensibility is an incredible story that tells the lives of two young girls who have nothing but each other to look out for especially in troubling times. Some of the important lessons arrayed by the novel are the aspect of not overriding emotions over good senses. Austen uses Elinor as a prime character in teaching this lesson. From how she portrays her, Austen has much love and respect for Elinor and expects everyone in the society to behave like her. This is shown towards the end of the book at the scene where Marianne apologizes for her conducts and vows to be like her sister in the future. 

Works Cited

Denning, Stephen. “Effective storytelling: strategic business narrative techniques.” Strategy & Leadership 34.1 (2006): 42-48.

Glassner, Andrew. Interactive Storytelling: Techniques for 21st-century fiction. AK Peters/CRC Press, 2009.

Trollope, Joanna, and Jane Austen. Sense & Sensibility. HarperCollins, 2013.


Impact of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

Common Sense Analysis Paper

 A fascinated man, Thomas Paine, at age 37, sailed from England for a new start in America.  Paine left behind a career in corset making, privateering, tax collecting, teaching, political activism, writing and merchandising[1].  However, Paine brought with him a unique letter of introduction penned by no other than Benjamin Franklin.  By mid-January 1775 in America, Paine had secured employment with The Pennsylvania Magazine, first as a writer and then as the journal’s editor within a month1.  Paine left his job with The Pennsylvania Magazine in October to pursue in writing what Benjamin Franklin called “a history of the present transactions” between Great Britain and the American colonies1.  With all the adventures Paine was facing, the relationship with Great Britain and the American colonies was not improving.  Thus, leading Thomas Paine to write a pamphlet he titled Common Sense. 

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The pamphlet Common Sense by Thomas Paine that was published and distributed, is an important contribution to American history because, by the unique sermon-like persuasive language, Thomas Paine uses, he helped exemplify the significance of the British rule tyranny to the American colonies that also helped influence those not sure of declaring independence to support the individuals who favored declaring independence from Great Britain, helped by suggesting a new form of government and helped by creating an impact that still lives on in current America.

Thomas Paine, being a writer, editor and overall, an ingenious man, used unique language in Common sense that helped its readers better understand the tyranny the British were causing to the American people.  During the end of the French and Indian war in 1763, before Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, The British Army and colonial militias were able to push the French out of North America. However, the colonies were not advancing in economic importance, so Great Britain embarked a new policy of stricter administration and involvement of colonial affairs1.  The resulting involvement of the British had introduced more restrictive trade policies and new taxes.  What caused the British government to be infuriated with the colonies was when Bostonians protested by dumping 10,000 pounds worth of tea into their harbor on December 16, 17731. The parliament took action by shutting down the Boston Harbor, paralyzing Massachusetts’ charter and passing additional Coercive Acts that the colonists called intolerable1. Another act by the British was the fight at Lexington and Concord, which was a battle that consisted of a hundred British troops that marched from Boston to nearby Concord to seize the colonial militia.  This resulted in a battle that left many of the colonies men dead and led the colonies to be angered [2].

Thomas Paine needed a method to influence the American people that were unsure of declaring independence from Great Britain to support those who favored declaring independence from the British Rule. So, Paine wrote Common Sense in simple, direct language aimed at ordinary people, not just the learned elite [3] or as Paine, himself says about his writing style, “As it is my design to make those that can scarcely read understand, I shall therefore…put it in the language as plain as the alphabet” 1.  In Common Sense, Paine divides the pamphlet into four different and distinct sections.  The first section, Paine establishes multiple ideas for a republican American government.  Paine begins by differentiating between government and society.  According to Paine, Society in every state is a blessing[4] and good that people join together to accomplish.  The government on the other hand, even in its best state is evil4 but is sole purpose is the protection of life, liberty, and property of the people.  Paine, in this section, establishes what a good government should be like and hints at what America should be like.  In the second section, Paine addresses the nature of the British monarchy, the sort of system monarchy brings, the beliefs of the monarchy system and the biblical equality of all men.  Paine argues that mankind was born equal in creation4 and finds it strange and unnatural that America has a king.  For example, Paine says, “But where, says some, is the King of America? I’ll tell you. Friend, He reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain” 4 .  Suggesting that the only King America has reigns above [God] and not like the current king of Britain who he calls a “Brute”.  Paine also uses biblical evidence that suggests that the Jews were delusional in requesting a king in which led God to be angered4.  Paine concludes that the practice of monarchy is a practice of sin that God condemns. 

The third section Paine reiterates the tension between America and Great Britain and suggests a new form of government.  Paine claims that if America continues to be with Britain, then America will stop growing and will never reach its full potential4.  Especially, with Britain constantly getting into wars with France and Spain, Britain keeps sending Colony soldiers to die for unknown reasons.  Pains suggest that the American people will avoid any internal conflict if they have a government that properly represents all the states and the people in them. What Paine suggests is a new form of government because Paine calls for an elected President, and outlines for a congressional district that has a charter of the United States that becomes the United States Constitution [5].  Within the details of the charter, Paine mentions that people should have freedom of religion and personal property.  The last section talks about the past consequences of monarchy and what future consequences it will bring if independence isn’t declared.  Paine finishes off his pamphlet by describing the great future America will have if independence is declared because it is in the best interest that Great Britain rivals will help fight Britain out of America so that America can have its independence.

When the hundreds and thousands of American people read Common Sense, it had an immediate impact on the reader but also continues to have an impact on today’s America.  Not only did it have this influence, but it was the eye-opener the colonies needed to declare independence from Great Britain.  By wording it the way Thomas Paine did, he was able to allow any literate child, man, and woman, rich or poor, to read Common Sense.  The pamphlet proved to be so influential when it was released that John Adams declared, “Without the pen of the author of ‘Common sense,’ the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain” [6]. However, Thomas Paine knew that the notion of declaring independence was not a new one.  So, by writing it almost like a sermon he was able to convey the lives of religious to non-religious people.  The impact that it continues to have can be seen in the ideal government Thomas Paine describes in Common Sense.  One can say that he prophesied the American government by declaring a president and brought up the idea of the charter of the United States that became known as the United States Constitution.  An impact it also has is by establishing America as a land that is willing to fight for what is right.  This can be seen with today’s America, in which we always have a continuous fight to decide what is right. 

Thomas Paine Common Sense is an important part of history because he helped exemplify the significance of the British rule tyranny to the American colonies that also helped influence those not sure of declaring independence to support the individuals who favored declaring independence from Great Britain, helped by suggesting a new form of government and helped by creating an impact that still lives on in current America.  The language Thomas Paine used changed the life of the American people and continues to ring in the ears of the American people.


History.Com, 2019,

“Openstax CNX”. Cnx.Org, 2019,

Kortenhof, Kurt. “Glorious Triumph”. History Channel Magazine, 2008, Accessed 16 Oct 2019.

Paine, Thomas. “The Project Gutenberg E-Text Of Common Sense, By Thomas Paine.”. Gutenberg.Org, 2019,

[1] Kortenhof, Kurt. “Glorious Triumph”. History Channel Magazine, 2008, Accessed 16 Oct 2019.

1 Kortenhof, Kurt. “Glorious Triumph”. History Channel Magazine, 2008, Accessed 16 Oct 2019.

2 History.Com, 2019,

[3] “Openstax CNX”. Cnx.Org, 2019,

[4] Paine, Thomas. “The Project Gutenberg E-Text of Common Sense, By Thomas Paine.”. Gutenberg.Org, 2019,

[5]Paine, Thomas. “The Project Gutenberg E-Text of Common Sense, By Thomas Paine.”. Gutenberg.Org, 2019,

[6] History.Com, 2019,

Sense of place in Prince Rupert’s Island and Vancouver

Sense of place in Prince Rupert’s Island and Vancouver

Sense of place can be analyzed at various regions, cities and towns. It is a sense of belonging to a geographic area based on its physical geography, human/social geography, demographics and culture, political geography, economic geography and history. In order to fully examine the meaning of sense of place, we will explore the British Columbia region, specifically Vancouver and Prince Rupert to understand how sense of belonging can be felt in a region’s perspective and also within Canada as a whole.

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Prince Rupert was established in 1910 and is full of rich history dating back many years. What’s now Prince Rupert harbour was once a hot spot for trade and the commerce of First Nations People. As of now, the population is approximately 14,000 people and like before, the port has now become a hub for trade and commerce but to a global scale. The land has many ties to historical events such as the creation of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, and the land’s contribution during WWII (City of Prince Rupert, 2018).

In comparison, Vancouver is located in the southwest corner of British Columbia and is the largest metropolitan city in Western Canada. It is known for its beauty and mountains. It has the mildest climate in relation to other cities in Canada and so one can enjoy skiing and the beach all in the same day (WorldAtlas, 2018). Vancouver also is a popular location for movies and TV shooting. It addition, it is also a primary center for trade with Asia.

In order to fully grasp the meaning of sense of place in these two cities, we will be analyzing their history and economy. In order to understand and identify ourselves, we must understand our history. History can create a sense of belonging from a long line of culture we identify with. Throughout time, culture evolves but still has roots that remind us where we started. It helps us feel connected and bond with others of similar heritage. In addition, economy also plays an impact to sense of place. Ups and downs of an economy create shared experiences and therefore a community. Also, if a city is mostly known for one job sector, majority will be employed there and their lives will be focused on that industry. This then also creates shared experiences which then add to their sense of belonging and place.     

Vancouver is a city of diversity that many identify with and celebrate. Over time, Vancouver has become a city with a broad range of ethnic groups that all contributed to the city’s distinct heritage and culture. These cultures have evolved to give Vancouver its unique feel but also retaining its original identity. For instance, even though a small percentage of the current population is of First Nations, the culture of the city still showcases their once larger population. The city is full of towering totem poles and aboriginal art galleries situated in downtown, Granville Island and Gastown. The original artwork is showcased in UBC Museum of Anthropology and at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art (Tourismvancouver, 2018).

The first generation of Japanese immigrants were called Issei and they arrived between 1877 and 1928. Majority settled in small fishing villages along the Pacific coastline and on the farms of Fraser Valley. Since this historical period, the city has been influenced by Japanese culture from the blooming cherry trees in public gardens to the tea ceremony at Nitoe Memorial Garden and the annual Powel Street Festival which is the largest Japanese-Canadian community event in Vancouver (Tourismvancouver, 2018). Furthermore, a large part of population in Vancouver now is Chinese. The first generation however, arrived in the late 1800s. They immigrated to work on the railroads and in mining operations. As more started immigrating, their population kept growing and developed the third most populated Chinatown in Canada. The cultural district is home to many authentic cuisines, specialty items in traditional markets, teashops, and contemporary nightlife with a new generation of Chinese-Canadians (Tourismvancouver, 2018).  In conclusion, throughout history, many ethnic groups have immigrated to the city and have greatly contributed to its unique mix of cultures. It is the unique mix of culture that creates a sense of place for Vancouver. In conclusion, the city’s inclusion and diversity is what many identify with. The recent generation have changed into a “newer” version of the original culture and has created a mix of their origin and Canada.

Like Vancouver, Prince Rupert’s also has ties to a broad range of cultures. The history of the land has been shaped to what it is today. It is this history that gives the people a sense of place through common historical upbringings. For instance, about 30 km past the nearby village of Port Edward, is located a Cannery that’s history can be seen through its many wooden, tin-roofed buildings that is spread along a river bank. The history of these infrastructures can be dated beck in 1889 when the Cannery was used as a strategic spot in the Skeena River estuary. It was the perfect spot for fishing with shelter from the ocean and easy access to rich waters. After, in the 1940s, the Cannery became homes to many of Japanese, Chinese, First Nations, and Europeans who lived in cottages and bunkhouses. Now, the Cannery still showcases its historical roots with buildings, boardwalks and trails. It has a seasonal café that serves fresh and historically inspired lunches. Its gift shop is full of souvenirs and handmade wares from local artists. Rupert also belonged to a number of other ethnic groups such as Celtic, Portuguese, Filipino, etc. All have their own historical events that are still celebrated today with traditional clothing, music, and dances (Visit Prince Rupert, 2018).

The rich history of this area creates a sense of community. Many who lived there identify with a historical period and are celebrated for their contribution to the making of what the Cannery is today. Furthermore, it is where many of their ancestors lived and learning about what they went through, creates a sense of familiarity and community. The people of Prince Rupert’s identify with multiculturalism and like the case in Vancouver, it creates a sense of place with its unique formation of history.

In addition to Vancouver’s unique culture, its economy also creates a sense of place through shared experiences. Vancouver’s economy is largely depended on forestry, fishing, mines, and minerals. It is also known as a world-class port to Asia which makes the city Canada’s gateway for goods. As a result, in British Columbia, Vancouver has been the leader in trade with Pacific Rim nations. The role was confirmed in 1997, when the city hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference. The port is one of North America’s busiest transportation hubs. Approximately, annually, the port exports more than 64 million metric tons and imports more than nine million metric tons. In addition, the harbour is also a hot spot for dry-cargo port on the Pacific Coast and ships grain, coal, potash, sulfur, asbestos, metals, and other Western Canadian materials. One other popular sector is Tourism. Due to Vancouver’s physical beauty, Tourism has skyrocketed since the city hosted the World Expo in 1986. Vancouver is also featured in many films and had earned the nickname “Hollywood North”. Furthermore, greater Vancouver is the largest manufacturing center in BC (City-data, 2018). All combined makes up Vancouver’s economy. Since the city is known for its recourses, transportation, tourism and manufacturing, many that live there, are employed in these sectors. As a result, it creates shared experiences and goals and thus, a sense of place.

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Similarly, Prince Rupert’s economy creates a sense of place through shared experiences. Depending of the economy of a land its residents grow and work in a specific field that is unique. For instance, Rupert’s is known for its transportation of goods. According to a new InterVistas Consulting economic impact study, in 2016, about $35 billion goods went through the port’s terminals which generated $1 billion in economic activity. In 2016, the port, trucking, rail and logistics employed about 3,100 people (Bennett, 2018). There are five other transportation terminals: Northland cruise ship terminal, Pinnacle Energy’s Westview wood pellet terminal, Fairview container terminal, Prince Rupert grain terminal, and Ridley coal terminal. In fact, by 2020, the port will have a new terminal; a $500 million project to export propane (Bennett, 2018). All which will further increase the demand for jobs in the transportation field. With more demand, more students will grow to be employed in the sector, creating shared experiences and therefore a sense of place.

In conclusion, both Prince Rupert’s and Vancouver have their unique mix of multiculturalism. Both have their unique history of migrations and different mix of cultures, but together as a whole they represent the Canadian multicultural identity. Multiculturalism was adopted in 1971 and it is a specific policy framework with a history. Approximately $23-million has been allocated for multicultural programs for the next two years. This is primarily for the development of a national anti-racism strategy that will support community groups helping immigrants integrate. However, multiculturalism is more powerful than that. It’s a sensibility that Canadians have so they can integrate diversity into daily life and in their communities. We see this is Vancouver’s cuisine. Canada is known for its multicultural identity and with both the policy and practice of multiculturalism, 85% of immigrants eventually become citizens, and mix their original culture to form a new Canadian culture (Adams and Omidvar, 2018). Multiculturalism offers a sense of identity and place that is unique to Canada.

Finally, Canada’s economy is heavily relied on transportation. Transportation plays a critical role in Canada’s economy by creating jobs and making Canada a leader in trade both nationally and abroad.

Following are a few examples of how transportation makes the economy thrive:

4.2 % of the GDP is accounted for the transportation and warehousing sector. Furthermore, the sector has grown nearly twice as fast as the average for any industry in Canada (Canadianfuels, 2018).

5% of the total employment in Canada is in transportation and warehousing. In 2014, about 896,000 employees worked in the industry (Canadianfuels, 2018).

About $167 billion was traded in 2013, in 2014 total international trade equalled to $1,036 billion (Canadianfuels, 2018).

Therefore, transportation is crucial in order for our economy to thrive. Transportation is how we identify the Canadian economy and therefore it creates similar shared experiences but on a national level. Many who work in the transportation are working to make the economy thrive while reducing GHG emissions. Together, the different regions work together to support the country as a whole and this creates a sense of community.


How Does Patrick Kavanagh’s Concept of the Parish Inform His Sense of the Significance of the Local in Irish Poetry?

Patrick Kavanagh, whose poetic work is arguably the most influential to modern day Irish poets, was for a lengthy period during his writing career considered a rogue element by the literature colleagues of his era. Today, his work stands shoulder to shoulder with other Irish greats such as Yeats for his inimitable insight and understanding of rural Irish life. Through his seminal work The Great Hunger, this essay will examine that parish experience, which the young Kavanagh carried with him through his literary career and which shaped his portrayals of local Irish life, consequently breathing new life into a ‘pre-packaged’ or sanitised image espoused by many of his contemporaries.

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A semi-educated young man, Kavanagh left his northern parish and moved to the city to venture into poetry composition, but he felt at odds with the views expressed by the urban poets of the day. When the young Kavanagh arrived in the city of Dublin, he grew disappointed in what he termed as a “fictional” portrayal of the Irish peasant’s character by the city poets and writers. He believed that most were generating a falsified image of the Irish people for purposes of exporting their literature to America.[1]

His open rebellion to the popular depiction of the Irish peasant farmer by other writers created a conflict between Kavanagh and the urban literature composers. However, this conflict did not deter him from expressing what Kavanagh thought was the true depiction of rural Irish life in his poems. Kavanagh was proud and considered himself as the only writer during his era to have expressed the realistic image of rural Ireland folk.[2] He held a concept of the parish as a place where the local people, who although lived in poverty, led an honest and righteous life – contrary to the inaccurate image of the urban written literature, and that concept of the parish had a significant impact in his and other local Irish poetry.

Kavanagh was born in the early twentieth century in a religious family that lived in Mucker, in the Parish of Inniskeen, Co Monaghan.[3] He was the fourth child to a family of ten children. Raised Catholic, during his early years he went to a church-based school where most of the reading materials were religious. Therefore, Kavanagh held the idea that rural people were religious just like him. However, he was fond of questioning the moral teachings that the teachers instructed.[4] This character of questioning religious morals inspired some of his writings, such as the Great Hunger. Although Kavanagh was a religious individual, he preferred to explore what he referred to as God’s presence in nature. He believed that God was part of nature but not necessarily nature itself.[5]

The second idea that Kavanagh held about his Parish was that it was a place where hardworking poor people like himself, lived an honest and happy life – despite poverty and hardship. He came from a family of farmers and in the wake of World War I, Kavanagh had to abscond his education at the age of thirteen because of poverty. He dropped out of school partly to work as an apprentice in his father’s shoemaking business and to help in his family farming activities. However, Kavanagh had a deep passion for pursuing his poetic dream regardless of his sudden educational departure or the family’s lack of money.

Kavanagh felt that being in the fields allowed the local people to be closer to God. He held the idea that God was in nature, and parish workers had the opportunity to interact with the vast fields of God’s creation. He also loved to play football in his local football club. All these were the images of his parish that engraved themselves in his mind throughout his writing career. Therefore, in his literature, he portrayed an image of an Irish people who, although struggling with poor economic conditions, lived a life filled with happiness in simplicity and hard work – something shared by their Presbyterian neighbours further north.

At the time when Kavanagh was writing poetry, there were also other political activities taking place in the country, which had an impact on how he perceived the locals. By 1940, Ireland was struggling for national independence. Therefore, other Irish poets such as Yeats and Hades, at the time, strived to create an image of the Irish peasants as people who were always in conflict with each other and whose main aim was to overturn the English colonial stereotype.[6] The depiction of Irish people always in conflict and struggle, stemmed from assumptions and fictional imaginations of urban writers concerning rural life.[7] In addition, most urban writers were Protestant, while most rural people were Catholic. Therefore, the misrepresentation of his folk resulted in the development of Kavanagh’s urge to correct the image portrayed by urban writers.

Finally, another local practice that informed Kavanagh’s imagery of parish life was the fact that late marriages were a common practice. Rural Ireland was a conservative patriarchal society practicing agriculture as the primary source of income. Conversely, the rise of revivalists around the country, whose main goal was to hold land rather than use it for farming, created the need for rural people to be conservative. For this reason, many farming parents did not allow their children to marry only to avoid subdividing the already limited land further.[8] As a result, it was common practice for the eldest sons to remain unmarried even at a late age with the hope of inheriting the family land from their parent. Therefore, most young men at the time indulged in sexual adventures only to satisfy their sexual imagination. Kavanagh depicted this in The Great Hunger, where he talks about the struggles of rural people against sexual deprivation.

In this, his most famous poem, Kavanagh refutes the common mythical misrepresentation of rural Irish folk and instead depicts the life of the parish local according to the concept he had acquired during his early childhood. The poem entails the struggles of an old Irish farmer with himself and his environment. However, in this case, he is not struggling for liberty from colonial rule but rather from hunger, infertility, self-acceptance, and spiritual fulfilment; concepts that Kavanagh felt were a candid expression of local people’s lives. He set the poem at a time when there was “great hunger” in Ireland but not the oft-talked of famine, but the reality of everyday deprivation and struggle for survival in rural Ireland.

Kavanagh had experienced the world of viciousness, misery, and poverty first hand. Therefore, he did not try to exaggerate its effect emotionally. In The Great Hunger, the main character is a potato farmer named Maguire. In the opening act of the poem, he describes how Maguire and his men grew intimate with the land in which they would spend hours ploughing. He writes that “potato-gatherers like mechanised scarecrows move” through the field and that these farmers would continue ploughing these filed until “the last soul… rolled down the hill”.[9] These stanzas illustrate that local farming people worked hard in the field, not just for a season, but for their entire lives, from birth to death. Kavanagh drew this depiction from his early childhood days when he, together with his other family members, would plough the land tirelessly during the farming seasons.

In the first sentence of the poem, Kavanagh describes clay as being the word and the flesh.[10] Kavanagh chose to begin this poem by showing the intimacy that the local people had with the land. According to his concept, the Irish people valued nothing more than the land – they held family land sacred. According to the poem, the locals were so intimate with the land that nature had given room for them to operate.[11] They manoeuvred “over worms and frogs” in the fields and gulls would fly off as they approached the hedges.[12] Kavanagh explains how vital the practice of farming was to these people.

Kavanagh also states in the first act that these men ploughing the land had not married. Maguire and his men have committed their lives to the fields. Kavanagh writes that Maguire was “lost in a passion that never needs a wife”.[13] For Maguire, his wives are his field and his dog. He seems not to have any control over his life. However, according to the poem, this man was not saddened by his current state. He instead thought of himself to be “wiser than any man in the townland.”[14] Kavanagh describes this local Irish farmer based on the controversy that, according to him, had plagued the young men living blindly in rural Ireland without any consideration of their current states.

Additionally, Kavanagh describes Maguire’s mother, with whom he lives, as dominating him. Society has forced him to commit to a life serving the Parish – church, land and family. He must remain calm and mindless until a time when it will be appropriate to get married. Meanwhile, he is growing old and infertile each day. He is addicted to furtive masturbation because it is immoral, according to his Christian values, to indulge in any sexual endeavours with a woman before marriage. At the beginning of act VII, his mother commands him to attend mass, pray and confess his sin; maybe then, he would “have all the luck.”[15] Maguire obeys his mother even though he does not fully agree with her. His tragedy, as Kavanagh describes, began at his boyhood and may only end with his death. This idea Irish young men, who seem dominated by the parents, sprouted from what he had observed in his parish, which was men remaining single for as old as forty years because they were waiting for permission from their parents to get married.

Kavanagh uses the tragedy about Maguire’s life to express the significant conflicts involved in the life of young rural men. The conflicts between Christianity and fertility and paganism and then between work, obedience, and love. The rivalry between Christianity and paganism shows in act III, where Kavanagh states that the men knew that God the Father was in the trees.[16] Pagans prayed to their God in the trees. However, these men were not pagans because they also believed in Christ and the Holy Spirit, as stated in the following lines in the poem. Kavanagh talks about this rivalry between different beliefs throughout the poem. This depiction of the rural Irish as a people who were torn between paganism and Christianity came from Kavanagh’s conflict with God’s nature. He grew up as a Christian but, like most other local villagers, had a concept that God was in nature.

In addition, there was a rivalry between Christianity and marriage within Kavanagh’s poem, which was conceptualised from the late marriages he observed in his parish. Maguire lived with his mother until she was ninety-one, and he was sixty-five years old. He was not allowed to marry nor defy his mother. The fact that his mother raised him as a Christian made sure that he could not defy the Christian values. Therefore, Maguire is in a dilemma of whether to follow his natural desire for marriage or adhere to his Christian values. This tragedy was also befalling his young employee, Joe. In act XI, Kavanagh also describes Joe as a “young man of imagined wives.”[17]

There is also a rivalry between Maguire’s impending impotence and the need to work the fields. Throughout the poem, Kavanagh expresses the frustration and loneliness that Maguire felt. However, he kept on ploughing as summers and winters came and went. In act XI, Maguire is forty-seven years old and he instructs other younger men on what to do. A young man, Joe, is following in his footsteps of life without marriage. Young girls no longer show interest in Maguire because they do not see any political viability in creating a friendship with him. Therefore, he seems to have accepted his fate as he continues to follow the commands of his mother, diligently. Kavanagh uses this narration to express the rivalry that most young men faced in rural Ireland.

Kavanagh also felt that rural Irish people later regretted their life’s choices. According to the poem, the tragedy that Maguire faces is not pertinent to him alone but also to his sister, Mary Anne. In act XII, Maguire’s sick mother expresses to the priest that she fears for her daughter’s future who is facing the imminent danger of her looming infertility. Mary Anne has an undying devotion to working in the homestead. When their mother dies, Mary Anne begins to question her actions at her late mother’s bedside. She realises that life has passed her by without her consent. She is no longer young. She remorsefully remembers a summer, forty years ago, when she together with three of her young friends went for an adventure.[18] Kavanagh uses the character of Mary Anne to express that the issue of failure to marry applied equally to both men and women as did the subsequent regret.

The final act of the poem highlights the sometime hopelessness and emptiness of rural life as Kavanagh had seen it. Maguire is now an elderly man. His voice has grown hoarse, and his body feeble. Joe and his sister are now first cousins to the dead in the townland.[19] He is an infertile man who is destined to see his death without having experienced life. Despite this, Maguire is not afraid of dying. He is optimistic that the church will light a candle for him to help him manoeuvre through the dark world of death. Kavanagh concludes that the circumstances faced by Maguire are not unique to him, but rather, a common occurrence everywhere in rural Ireland.[20]

The poem, The Great Hunger, is a great example to illustrate how Kavanagh’s concept of the parish – his understanding of local lives in rural Ireland – impacted his writing. He had experienced rural life as one where people lived in poverty. According to Kavanagh’s childhood experience, the local Irish were religious, hardworking peasants. They valued their land and farming activities more than anything else. However, these people were plagued with the conflicts between remaining true to their cultural values and submitting to the natural aspirations of love and marriage. Although, his notion of the rural Irish brewed conflict between him and his colleagues during his career, contemporary Irish poetry has begun appreciating his poetry. Today, Irish people celebrate the Bloomsday, which Kavanagh and his poetry friends pioneered, and other Irish-based poetic celebration days. Kavanagh has become an essential figure in contemporary Irish poetry, because of how candidly he expressed the significance of ‘the local’ in Irish parish life.


Agnew, Una, “The Spirituality Of Patrick Kavanagh – Catholicireland.Net,” Catholicireland.Net, 1999 [Accessed 31 May 2019]

Allison, Jonathan, ‘Patrick Kavanagh and Antipastoral’ in The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry, ed. Matthew Campbell (Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 42-59

AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger,” Allpoetry.Com  [Accessed 13 June 2019]

Andrews, Elmer, Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection Of Critical Essays (London: Springer, 2016), pp. 11-16

Hirsch, Edward, “The Imaginary Irish Peasant,” Publications Of The Modern Language Association Of America, 106 (1991), 1117

Kennelly, Brendan, “Patrick Kavanagh,” ARIEL: A Review Of International English Literature, 1 (1970) [Accessed 31 May 2019]

Kiberd, Declan, Inventing Ireland (London: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 476-477

O’Grady, T. B., “The Parish And The Universe,” An Irish Quarterly Review, 85 (1996), 17-26 [Accessed 31 May 2019]

[1] Elmer Andrews, Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays (London: Springer, 2016), pp. 11-16, (p. 11).

[2] Allison, Jonathan, ‘Patrick Kavanagh and Antipastoral’ in The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry, ed. Matthew Campbell (Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 42-59, (p. 42).

[3] Una Agnew, “The Spirituality of Patrick Kavanagh – Catholicireland.Net”, Catholicireland.Net, 1999 [Accessed 31 May 2019].

[4] Agnew, “The Spirituality Of Patrick Kavanagh – Catholicireland.Net”.

[5] Agnew, “The Spirituality Of Patrick Kavanagh – Catholicireland.Net”.

[6] Edward Hirsch, “The Imaginary Irish Peasant”, Publications Of The Modern Language Association Of America, 106.5 (1991), 1117 .

[7] Hirsch, (P.1117).

[8] Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland (London: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 476-477, (p.447).

[9] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”, Allpoetry.Com  [Accessed 13 June 2019].

[10] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”.

[11] Brendan Kennelly, “Patrick Kavanagh”, ARIEL: A Review Of International English Literature, 1.3 (1970), (p.13).

[12] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”.

[13] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”.

[14] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”.

[15] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”.

[16] Kennelly, (p.14).

[17] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”.

[18] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”.

[19] AllPoetry, “The Great Hunger”.

[20] Kennelly, (p.15).

Making Sense of a Changing World

Risk can be calculated but never definitively or explicitly enough so that it over rides the uncertainty and risk of failure or being less successful than planned. Uncertainty is the unknown, we can only predict the future, we will never know it until it happens, in business we tend to be “control freaks” afraid to take risks knowing that it might not pay off and ultimately lead people to question our credibility as a leader or employee.

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Elahi uses the concept of “Unknown unknowns” in order to enable us to maximise our interactions with the concept of uncertainty. In order to prevent an ignorant attitude or a dismissive one at least as a leader we first need to know the extent of knowledge already present and how that knowledge is presented and distributed to prohibit the dismissing of unknown unknowns as well as idealist unknown knowns.
We need to learn and actively recognise that there are many types of situations that can arise in business such as; simple, complicated, complex and chaotic: (Cynefin framework) aids thinking and acting appropriately in leadership (Snowden and Boone 2007). Frameworks are only useful if they enable those who use them to an appropriate response to a given action, this framework does that and effectively enables better business decisions to be made dependant on the situation we find ourselves in.
One of the keys parts of uncertainty that I agree strong with is Berlow, who hypothesises that we are unable to predict the future until we are in it. That being said, we ultimately are the masters of our own destiny, therefore we can plan what we want the future to look like and then through our own actions get as close to that idealised world as possible. Starting from a junior position, visualising the future, “the dream” embracing our mistakes and having the ability to adapt, we can mitigate the risks of uncertainty. By looking at the interactions of so many day to day experiences, as a leader we are able to focus on those that are able to be influenced and changed most effectively – not necessarily the easiest, enabling a simpler, less complex and stressful decision to be made. I am someone who gets stressed fairly easily when situations become needlessly complex, therefore I felt it appropriate to try and write this assignment from the point of view of making simpler less complex decisions.
Complexity as an overarching concept is actually quite simple when you stand back and look at it, addressing issues and categorising them, embracing mistakes and their resultant failures, there can be no such thing a mistake as long as a learning outcome can be drawn from it. We can try and predict the way in which a system could emerge, but ultimately we won’t ever be able to do so with 100% precision.
Theories on adaptive management have shown that if stakeholder involvement, dialogue throughout the business, as well as monitoring and adjusting business plans is pivotal to this learning experience (Williams 2011 and Armitage et al 2009). From my point of view, this means questioning “the norm”, just because it worked in that situation, does not mean it will work every time, as a leader I need to work on being open with staff and customers as well as reflective in my learning, this is something that admittedly I do struggle with at times which can lead to my actions being, reactive as opposed to proactive.
Reductionist economic models such as neoliberalism and its quest for a deregulated independent of state controlled economy could be seen to assume that human rationality is a relatively statistically neat, with a perfect world view which would be finished with complete information (Farmer and Foley 2009). The challenge that arises is that as problems and situations become ever more complicated and complex with significantly more possible outcomes and interactions, we as humans struggle to deal with and reason with deductive decision making in both business and personal situations.
Outcomes within any situation either business related or not nearly always are uncertain and we would be naïve to believe that there are gaps in our knowledge, nobody knows everything about something. In addition to uncertain outcomes we also need to add and account for the unpredictability and subjectivity of colleagues and customers behaviour which leads us down a path where it would be easy for us to view the whole concept of rationality as rather bounded (Arthur 1994). Learning as you go is paramount to success, realising that different situations and contexts require different approaches to gain a competitive advantage. By not acknowledging the contextual variation of a given situation or interaction could potentially result in the failure or dissolution of a system. One of the most commonly noted limitations of neoliberal theory in economics is that all behaviour is rational and can be predicted. The world sadly does not follow this rule, otherwise, business would be a lot less stressful!
In my experience, in both personal and work situations, people either don’t want too for fear of exposing emotional weakness or lack to the motivation to reason through problems or instead tend to rely on what could be interpreted as a flight response, also known as fast responses creating an emotional thought process and mind set.
As humans we naturally want to be in control of every situation we find ourselves in, this innate desire can blur our thought processes, as individuals, we again ignore our ignorance, maintaining an illusion to ourselves of validity, simplifying events that have happened in the past and over predicting and over complicating the future, causing a greater degree of stress and unwanted thought processes.
For example, when mowing a field, you would assume that after the first hour 20ha has been cut, naturally you would then assume that the same rate would continue throughout the day, until a breakdown or something happens. I have been guilty in the past of placing the blame on the machinery operator for breakdowns, saying they must have been doing something wrong when they might not have been. Reality is, performance is variable and, to a degree, unpredictable.
It is at times when we feel at risk or uneasy within a given situation that we even consider a more in depth, demanding thought process and ideas, termed as slow thinking (Kahneman 2011). The more complex the decisions that are required of us, the more we are likely to look for a simple answer.
An example I have witnessed when “on farm” would be a time when the highest producing dairy cow on farm was injured, she would have made a recovery in approximately nine months but would need to miss a year’s milking, this idea wasn’t even considered as it would have been “too much effort to have her on farm not producing for a year” The vet was not against this idea as it was the “simplest solution” I think trying to embrace the tenets of Eco Leadership particularly in the Agricultural Industry with its intense public scrutiny surrounding the treatment of animals, particularly in the dairy sector could help ease pressure, in this example instead of being motivated by financial factors, the farm would have kept the animal, recognising their social responsibilities instead of profit ones. Education is the key here, teaching young students – not just university students but sixteen to 18 year olds as well to accept responsibility for their environmental and public facing commitments may well reduce stress levels within the industry. A way of offsetting the financial “burden” of increased social responsibility and a steering group network of both you and older farmers as well as highlighting changes to the public would ultimately benefit all.
It does seem that in our reluctance to embrace complexity and risk in business, the end result is inevitably a more stressful and complex situation that the one we started with (Morieux 2013). I do wholeheartedly disagree with the concept of “something that is more complex is more likely to fail”, after all the world’s largest businesses are incredibly complex units with literally millions of interactions in their day to day functioning, it is not necessarily how complex something is that leads to an increased risk of failure but rather who built those systems in the first place and who now guides them as well as the manner they are guided in?
It has been hypothesised that in order to evolve and progress as a business it is imperative that we acknowledge the impact people make in organisations and generate a value for those people in organisations (Nair 2012). Perhaps this is a reason that large global businesses are now looking to employ “Natural Capital Managers/Directors” responsible not just for the external sustainability of a business but also internal sustainability. This doubles down on the concept of “Eco Leadership” spreading the balance of power throughout the organisation and looking past the concept of a wholly profit focused business but moving towards one that embraces inclusion leadership, allowing the responsibility and power to lie with all (Western 2013).
Holism is a relatively new concept to the world of business, first proposed in 1926 by Jan Smuts, it proposes the idea that various systems should be viewed as wholes, not merely as a collection of parts. Hayek took the view that, in economics at least, we cannot apply a reductionist view of the world/situation we are presented with in order to predict the future (Hayek 1974). If we did try and apply a reductionist approach fully to a given situation we could very likely run the risk of ignoring the fact we are being ignorant, ultimately resulting in business uncertainty and an inability to adapt to situations, creating a reactive business rather than a proactive one.
Snowden suggests the expression of knowledge between individuals can be considered as both a flow and a thing, essentially he suggested that as an individual I know more than I tell others and that I can tell more than I would write down. This concept could be applied to school examinations in the UK and globally, where it could be seen that students only really know what we know when we need to know it, essentially memory recall is what’s required for examinations.
Knowledge and Knowhow
When one first thinks about solving a complex situation, there is an overarching desire to approach the issue with the delusion that solving it would be simple, until I started studying on the MBA program and working my way through this module that would have been my original thought processes. There is a vast array of books filled with management theories and models that best explain “how to manage” which is great, but what they lack is the knowhow of the best way to put it into practice (Hidalgo 2015). The science of complexity demands a different kind of mind-set, one that enables us to best place ourselves so that we can question our experiences and interactions, adapt quickly and efficiently to new situations and learn from experience, collaborate with colleagues and stakeholders to ascertain best solutions, fail and still be happy through the knowledge that mistakes do not exist unless we do not learn from them, and ultimately developing an enhanced level of knowledge.
Expertise and knowledge are two traits that are very difficult to transfer effectively between individuals. The ability to learn as a network is traditionally more challenging than learning as a single individual, largely due to the number of interactions required to facilitate this. In my opinion it relies upon a shared “passion” for a given subject, the trust between colleagues and peers to explore that subject and the ability to ask questions and articulate thoughts. It could be hypothesised therefore that the structure of this MBA course with its distance learning aspect should make it easier for us as individual students to collate information and create learning. The rise of the internet and the increased complexity of the world we live in means as humans we are transitioning into a world that we find impossible to be separated from each other, either physically or mentally, ultimately, is this healthy and conducive to a better life? I think not.
20th Century leadership dynamics relied upon companies being steered by a relatively small number of individuals with massive power, whose only job was to chase profits, no matter the cost to the company’s internal or external sustainability. The concept of Eco Leadership (Western 2013) points us towards the redistribution of power, the view of a business as an eco-system where all parts need to be healthy in order to thrive. The huge barriers of cultural, political, and widespread public mistrust are beginning to come to the fore, the public now want to buy into a company’s moral compass when purchasing goods, companies must adapt or become irrelevant to the consumer. I think the rise of interconnectivity and complexity is here to stay, but should it be monitored closer in terms of growth? Ultimately is there a limit to how big something can get before it collapses? Many smaller networks could be viewed as more beneficial to success than highly populated interconnected networks.
There is no such thing as failure as long as something is learnt from it.
Big Data
This has to be the topic I have found the most interesting throughout the module. The emergence and huge growth of Big Data even in the past ten years is amazing to look at. Over the past thirty years, the world has effectively shrank as the internet took hold and allowed access to worldwide communication at the click of a button. Big Data has morphed into a hugely complex interconnected world with billions of day to day interactions, all of which are either hidden from the end user or shared with them. It has led to the development of a whole new analytical field, data analysts are freely using this subtly hidden information that has been gathered by companies to greater understand the kind of questions they should be asking.
The sheer volume, and range of big data is undeniable. However, it has been noted that there are significant ethical hurdles to overcome if Big Data is to carry on growing at the same pace. (Jin et al 2015). An increase in the information that can be analysed would generally be assumed to be valuable and of benefit to businesses and organisations. A proposition would be that the data that we determine to be helpful in aiding us to predict and, therefore, try and limit or even is potentially useful to us in terms of helping humankind rather than just business. On the flip side, it could be hypothesised that we trying to slow down and almost stop natural selection and enable machines and algorithms to do the thinking for people to eliminate and minimise error of choice, rather than letting humans select, and ultimately be accountable for their own behaviour? I think it wont be long now before humans begin to blame machines for their actions in a court of law, take Tesla for example, the cars drive themselves when on Autopilot, if that car hits a pedestrian, would the human driving be responsible or whoever designed the software to stop the car hitting someone?
Ultimately the analysing of the data gathered by companies is objective in its design but I think subjective in its nature, questions about what data analysts are looking for can be skewed to find “the correct answer”, alongside the huge emerging issue of invading the personal privacy of peoples’ lives without their consent and/or knowledge (McAfee 2012). We all sign up and love to use loyalty cards in supermarkets and online to analyse what we buy, ultimately just for the reward of additional points or a small discount on our next shop. It has to be questioned as to whether it is worth it the ongoing harassment that is marketing emails.
For me Big Data is a good thing, if ethically monitored and carried out, it has the potential to help consumers and companies. Big data aids the understanding and interpretation of complex and chaotic systems (Xu et al 2016). Big Data is here to stay, however it needs to be ethically managed with privacy at the forethought, those that manage it also need to be accountable. Research questions will need to remain open minded and accountable hidden from cognitive bias, allowing the data to reveal itself rather than be manipulated into showing what people want to see.
Finishing thoughts
The whole concept of what it means to be a leader in business in now being given fresh thought. It is so much easier to fail as a leader than to achieve something as one, you have to wonder why? It could be said that perhaps in the web of complexity and networks that we have forgotten what we have created (Chapman 2016). Complex management and leadership literature share considerable traits, it could also be argued that they are two variations of the same concept?
Simple problems ultimately do not require complex solutions, why do we always feel this is the case? Couldn’t it be better solved by a simple solution? That being said however, complex problems force us to use a very different approach and for our rationality to be questioned when making decisions.
It has been suggested we have confused management and leadership, is leadership even a real concept or are leaders just very effective managers who enable staff to be the best they can be?
Complex problems cannot be solved by managers’ models, in the way the models are currently formulated.
Leadership is a complex and almost undefinable concept. It involves the embracing of uncertainty, networks of interactions, and a whole host of traits that cannot be measured. It is now becoming increasingly important for diversity, flexibility, accountability to be part of a leaders toolbox. I feel that if we are to use complex adaptive management as the sole or even founding solution to complex problems that we are at a risk of continuing along the path of applying a model rather than sense making as individuals.
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