Your Reality or Mine #20 #cong23 #reality


We all have differnt realities, how do we create and share a reality? A truth?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. No two people have the same reality

  2. Different realities can mean division and mistrust

  3. How do we talk to each other?

  4. There is alwyas a path to shared truth

About Joe Kearns:

Engineer, computer scientist and former senior IT manager. Intercultural trainer. Passionate about history and politics. Half-decent amateur photographer. Loves spiders and insects.

Contacting Joe Kearns:

You can contact Joe by email.

By Joe Kearns

Your reality or mine
“Climate Change is a man-made phenomenon that threatens human existence”
”So-called climate change is entirely natural and has nothing to do with human activity”

And then

“Donald Trump is sleazy failed businessman with no moral compass eager to seize power at any cost to the people of the USA”
”Donald Trump is a visionary and the only one who can save the USA from the onslaught of woke socialist thinking that will destroy our way of life”

I used to teach English. I particularly enjoyed teaching the Conditionals. For those of you who don’t know, or have forgotten your grammar, conditionals have numbers depending on how “real” the situation is. The zero conditional is certainty – “If you heat ice, it melts”. This is reality – unless you stray into the world of science fiction or the paranormal. To most people this is fact, reality.

The fourth conditional is something impossible – “If I had known, I would have been a watchmaker”. This was Albert Einstein’s quote on hearing of the bombing of Hiroshima. What he describes is wishful thinking, what he whished might have happened, but not reality.

In trying to discern which of two opposing views of any situation is more likely to be reality we can apply the test of reasonableness. Most reasonable people think that the first statements above are reality, they are closer to the zero conditionals. Sadly, in my world view, for some the second statements are, for them, reality.

So how do people whose “realities” vary so much even talk to each other?

I have a brother who likes Donald Trump and could probably have written the second statement about Trump above. I am very fond of my Trump-liking brother and he is an extremely intelligent person.

My brother and I usually meet for coffee once a month and inevitably Trump comes up. I always try to look for areas where we have the same views – not easy with the subject matter. But strangely when I listen to him and try to understand why he thinks the way he does we end up having a great conversation. If we start from a position of thinking the other is nuts there can be no dialogue

But where are the different realities formed? We can form a view of reality if we take a piece of ice and heat it up. Not too many will argue about that scientific reality.

But more complex things like the cause and effect of Climate Change are way more slippery. This is where wishful thinking can insert itself – the fourth conditional. It is more comforting to think that Climate Change is not caused by my actions and much easier NOT to make changes in one’s life if our actions are not causing the disasters we see unfolding.

However, whatever you wish to be true there is always a reality in there somewhere, a zero conditional. It is hard to see it in the case of Climate Change so we have to trust scientists to tell us the reality. Which, if one doubts the integrity of scientists, opens the door to wishful thinking and rationalisation of actions.

And when it comes to the situation in Gaza and Israel, or the wars in Ukraine or Sudan, where will we find reality? How will we talk to each other when we disagree on what is reality?

It can be done. It has been done at other times – Northern Ireland and Rwanda come to mind.

In the end some version of Truth, of Reality, has to be agreed or we cannot make peace.

….and remember, never judge another person unless you have walked a mile in their shoes. At least then, if you still disagree you’ll be a mile away from them and you’ll have their shoes 😉

Purpose – the hardest topic? #57 #cong22


A look at purpose from the mundane, to the important to the profound.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Understanding purpose can be hard work, but we should never shy away from or ignore seeking understanding.

About Joe Kearns:

Now in life’s “third phase” where working for money is no longer central to existence, Joe has spent much of his paid career in US and other multinational companies managing various IT teams from local to corporate levels. He also had an earlier life as a volunteer engineer in Ethiopia in the mid-80s. Today life centres around many unpaid activities particularly in the field of Intercultural communication specifically focussed on Africa.

Contacting Joe Kearns:

You can contact Joe by email.


By Joe Kearns 

It is rare that I struggle to write or talk about any topic, but this has really left me struggling to know where to start – or end.

One can go all the way from looking at the purpose of day-to-day items, the purpose of human organisations to the purpose of human existence itself.

How many of us actually do think about purpose? It was a big part of my life in management. With every team I led throughout my career we spent time defining our purpose. No team of any size can be successful without have a clear understanding of its purpose.

My own understanding of what purpose is is “that which would or could not happen if the item or group did not exist”. So, the purpose of wheels on a car is to enable to allow the car to move easily over the ground – without wheels we’d be left with a lot of dragging and friction.

I led various IT teams at all levels and time spent understanding purpose was vital. Not only did it allow us to be focussed on achievement and to set goals, it also forced us to engage with management and stakeholders and understand their needs.

But it is not always easy to define purpose. I led several Enterprise Architecture teams in a large multi-national company from business unit level up to corporate. Because not everyone, including senior management, fully understood what we could do for the business, defining a purpose that everyone “got” was a challenge.

But what about much bigger questions like the purpose of existence?

I have spent some time looking at philosophical and religious writings on Purpose. While, I can’t claim to have understood everything, they all led me to a place of deep thought and questioning.

Some of my own thinking on purpose leads me to believe we often end up in “circular” logic. For example, if a parent says that their purpose is to care for their children until they can look after themselves, this can lead down an infinite path. While caring for one’s children is a laudable task it cannot be the purpose of existence

Maybe a bigger purpose is to “make life better for everyone”. Akin to teams in business defining their purpose as “to make the company better”, or some such, these kind of “purpose” statements lead inevitably to questions about what specifically should be made better or what is “better”.

All this eventually leads to questions about God or a greater existence outside of this life. In my mind, and I don’t claim to be right on this, it seems that if one doesn’t believe there is a God or an existence after this one, one must struggle to define purpose other than in short term, self-indulgent ways.

If one believes in God and life after death, purpose can be defined in relation to our seeking of God.

St Ignatius Loyola said: “The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.”

While I relate strongly to this definition, given my own beliefs, I know too that for those who don’t hold these beliefs the above is meaningless babble. In the end your understanding of life’s purpose will depend on what you believe or don’t believe. But we must all, within the confines of our beliefs, spend time thinking about purpose, not to do so is to drift aimlessly.

Working from Home. #11 #cong20


 The future of work will be driven, as it has always been, by a need for teams to be successful. Working from home has its place and there is no doubt that some or all teams will do some work from home – but there is no one-size-fits all answer. Just another fascinating facet of technology in our lives.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Coming soon.

About Joe Kearns

Joe Kearns is an Intercultural trainer who runs his own small training company. Joe originally qualified as an engineer and after time in France and Ethiopia began his IT career in the mid-80’s. Joe worked at a number of multinationals including Nixdorf Computer and Hewlett Packard in roles from programmer to IT Director. He also studied for his Computer Science degree at Trinity College during that period. In recent years Joe has focussed his energies on Intercultural matters particularly cultural issues in virtual teams and the influence technology is having on national cultures.

Contacting Joe Kearns:

You can follow Joe on Twitter, his website or contact him on Skype or by email.  

By Joe Kearns.

– why it is tough to get right, why it is not always good and why Big Tech wants you to buy in.

Out of the Covid19 crisis there can be few topics that generate more discussion than that of remote or virtual working. The topic has moved from one of interest only to some in team management roles to one that is discussed in “popular media”. The consensus seems to be that most people will move to mostly virtual work and be happy to do so. I disagree with this consensus.

Those of you know me know I am not a fan of virtual work – in fact, I hate it. When I express that view, I get a variety of responses. Some immediately agree with me. Some seem to think I just don’t get it. And then some react like I had just insulted their religion or told them their baby was ugly!

Those who think I just do not understand it assume it’s due to my age – because I am an “old guy” I don’t understand this brave new technical world. Well, I have been in the tech industry since 1985 and I worked virtually from 1999 right up to today. I have presented on the topic at international conferences and led week-end workshops on the nature of virtual life. I get it.

Interestingly some of the cheerleaders for the new world of working-from-home act more like religious evangelists. I heard someone at a recent session make the following statement, about those who say they don’t like remote working “…they are not believers yet”.

It is hard to get it right if you do work virtually

For those of you who have tried to work virtually in recent probably know it is not always easy to get right.

Here are my top three things – in reverse order – that lead to success or failure:

The Work: I think it is probably self-evident that the kind of work involved will dictate how successful a remote-virtual environment will be. In my experience the more clearly defined the tasks and the less “human emotion” needed the more successful the team will be. To explain the extremes on the spectrum of: suitable to unsuitable, activities I ask people if they would like to be married to someone and only have a virtual existence? That’s one end of the spectrum and technical projects are probably at the other.

The Technology: It is my contention that in about 5 years we will look back and laugh at how primitive the current tools will seem. Rather like dial-up-internet to fibre internet. Tools like Zoom, Teams, Webex and others are in their infancy and Covid will drive huge improvements. But for today the most important factor to consider is how level the playing field is for the team. If one of your team has team has a specially built office of 50m2, overlooking a lake, with 1GB broadband, two or three large high resolutions screens, a comfortable chair and no “home” interruptions and another of your team is working in a cupboard with a laptop on their knees with the sounds of dogs and children in the background, they are not likely to perform the same. In an office environment all employees generally have the same technical level playing field. Imagine holding an office meeting where one of the attendees had to sit under the table with a paper bag on their head and talk though a towel – how much would they contribute to the meeting?

But I guess many companies are tackling the technical side to ensure their employees have good screens, cameras, and microphones. But there is not much they can do about the family setup or the physical environment.

There is another tech-inequality that can disrupt team performance – that is where some of the team are in an office face-to-face and others are calling in “virtually”. This is one I have had to deal with myself as a manager and we eventually had everyone call in with the same technology regardless of whether they could sit in the same room together.  A tech level playing field is vital.

The personality: This is the most important factor and one we can’t change. For some people, and it is not a function of age, working virtually is hell and for others it is heaven. Why is that? Some of us value the direct contact, interaction and insights that being with real people brings. For some of us being deprived from that is downright painful. For others, the less they have to interact with real humans the better! This is a huge topic, too big to go into here, and deserves further study.

Big Tech -why they want you to “believe”

Who benefits from a positive spin view of “working from home”? Well primarily the big tech companies and internet providers. Have you noticed any of the ads on TV for broadband? They always show cheery happy families all working away – the mother talking to her team in the office, the son playing a war game, the daughter doing online research and so on. Everyone is so happy. Don’t get me wrong, if I was trying to sell the product, I would create similar images. But the images are just that – an image. The real-life realities are probably not so much fun.


The future of work will be driven, as it has always been, by a need for teams to be successful. Working from home has its place and there is no doubt that some or all teams will do some work from home – but there is no one-size-fits all answer. Just another fascinating facet of technology in our lives.