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Non-Fiction

Have They Got Fake News For You?

This is the first in a series of posts inspired by taking part in York Theatre Royal’s new community play Everything is Possible about the York Suffragette movement (20th June to 2nd July). The human stories of winning the vote reminds me that our engagement in society is both our (hard won) right and our duty.

As we enter election season (both local on 4th May and national on 8th June), I felt it was time to reflect on the debate organised by my friends at Glass Half Full earlier this year on the subject of “fake news” and the social media bubble. Continue reading “Have They Got Fake News For You?”

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Making Change Happen: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

This post is adapted from something I wrote about CPD for the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

Whether it’s a new year’s resolution or a Lenten fast, many of us try at various points in the year to make changes, but it’s easy for these to peter out over time. How can we stop our good intentions ending up as wishful thinking? Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit” includes some intriguing evidence about how we can move from good intentions to actions with three simple steps: Continue reading “Making Change Happen: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg”

The Limits To Travel – David Metz

Alongside Barry Hutton’s excellent “Planning Sustainable Transport” (also by Routledge), this is in the small but important list of “books which changed how I think about transport” and worth reading several times over. The author, David Metz, has spent his career at the Department for Transport and in various academic research positions, so he is able to explain authoritatively what good transport policy looks like.  Continue reading “The Limits To Travel – David Metz”

From Good Housekeeping to Good Asset Management: what would Mrs Beeton think?

This week I’ve been rereading a favourite book of mine, Laura Vanderkam’s “168 Hours”, preparing for a family visit and wondering what would happen if we had Mrs Beeton, Laura Vanderkam and an engineer in the same room… Because the truth is, people don’t apply the same standards to their home lives as they do at work, and some regard the state of your home as a matter of moral failure (making the rest of us feel guilty).

So what would your house look like if you applied the principles of asset management rather than Good Housekeeping? Continue reading “From Good Housekeeping to Good Asset Management: what would Mrs Beeton think?”

Business Book Club: The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman is one of those books every engineer should keep close to their desk for frequent reference. Continue reading “Business Book Club: The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman”

Business Book Club: First Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

This is the first book for my new Business Book Club, where we’ll be getting together once a month to read and discuss a book about leadership, management and excellence. Suggested questions are provided at the end.

If you work for a large company, the chances are you will have done an employee survey at some point which is based on the research presented in this book, which correlates business performance against employee perceptions based on thousands of surveys conducted by Gallup over the last 20 years. This research found that there are 12 key questions where positive answers strongly correlate with high performing teams within a company – and it’s all about your manager. The questions are organised in order of importance, and the basic task of management is therefore presented as making sure that all employees can answer the first 6 positively (with the remainder being how you motivate your best talent). Continue reading “Business Book Club: First Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman”

On Stage: In Fog and Falling Snow (George Stephenson)

What do you do when your theatre is closed for nearly a year for a major refurb? Build another (temporary) one of course: the show must go on…! At least, that was the York Theatre Royal’s approach, constructing the Signal Box Theatre in a huge insulated marquee with a railway track down the middle at the back of the National Railway Museum. Continue reading “On Stage: In Fog and Falling Snow (George Stephenson)”

The Courageous State by Richard Murphy

Following the release of the Panama Papers, now feels like an excellent time to review my favourite book about tax, money and the common good: The Courageous State: Rethinking Economics, Society and The Role of Government by Richard Murphy. Continue reading “The Courageous State by Richard Murphy”

At Least It’s Not Raining by Stephen Redman

Childhood cancer is rare, affecting just a few thousand families each year in the UK, and of those, 80% of children diagnosed with cancer survive. But what if your family is in the 20%? Continue reading “At Least It’s Not Raining by Stephen Redman”

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