In a world that’s often nuts, an appreciation of different beaks has helped me this week; and provoked a good laugh too.

Many of the people and organisations I’ve worked with have been surprisingly similar. People bought into large organisations; everyone also broadly buying the basics of modern day economics. 

Most accepted, to one degree or another contemporary management theory (as write it the auto spellchecker just changed ‘theory’ to ‘rhetoric’ which tells its own story…)

So, I realise as a consequence, there were lots of unwritten conventions and beliefs which everyone more or less accepted: efficiency, technology, flatter structures, outsourcing, open plan, command and control hierarchies etc etc. 

Not so a university! Theologians, philosophers; proper nailed on Marxists; historians, mathematicians and scientists natural, social and anti-social aplenty – nobody agrees on anything. And nor should they…

As is says in our Royal Charter:

“Staff  employed by the College who are directly engaged in teaching and research shall have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges.”

Academic freedom is priceless; but so are some of the views it protects! So thinking of beaks has helped. 

We have people whose entire lives have been dedicated to a particular subject – a bit like the toucan above which has the perfect beak for fruit but isn’t going to get much nectar out of a flower. Similarly the humming bird is poorly equipped for cracking a Brazil nut.  

I reckon most successful modern managers are corvids – armed with a big strong versatile beak. I’ve worked with good few black-hearted crows, the odd showy Jay. And me? A magpie, I think – I’ll have a go at most things, especially something shiny and interesting.
So I forgive the hornbills, the falcons, the humming birds and the many other odd beaked specialists I work with. They have been through Darwinian selection at least as harsh as his famous finches. 

So why expect them to crack the nuts I can; or expect appreciation for that? We share a habitat but occupy entirely different niches.

To each bird its beak. 


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