A new form of chess with an ancient tradition

January 9, 2017

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The villagers of Ströbeck in central Germany have become the custodians of an ancient tradition of playing chess according to their own rules. An annual chess festival is held, with parades and human chess performances by children from the village school

Origins

Local legend has it that chess arrived in Ströbeck a thousand years ago, when an imprisoned nobleman taught his guards the moves. Chess at the time was spreading to the west from its eastern origins. The game took hold in the region, and became a local obsession. Over time, various imaginative changes took place. These gave the good people of Ströbeck a further advantage over neighbouring villages.

The village has recently received a heritage listing, and hopes to obtain a further honour through a UNESCO international heritage listing.

The chess players of Ströbeck have a habit of frustrating their opponents. Throughout the ages, strangers visiting the village in the foot of the Harz mountains in central Germany have been confronted with a community that has not only been steeped in the “royal game” from an unusually early age, but has also developed its own idiosyncratic rules, including special moves, additional pieces and cryptic commands.

[The Guardian, January 7th 2017]

The addition of a game played on a board with more squares was one innovation. The introduction of pieces with new moves was another.

A tradition arose that anyone seeking to marry someone born in the village has first to play a game of chess (rules to be agreed in advance) against the mayor, who had the power to prevent the marriage, depending on how the game went. Recently, this tradition has moderated to a symbolic fine to be donated to a good cause.

I particularly like another tradition. If, despite the other home advantages enjoyed, a local is losing to an outsider, onlookers can shout in local dialect, ‘Vadder, mit Rat ‘ [Look out, he’s planning a sneak attack].

Such cultural innovations should be encouraged.

Image

Tourist waiting for a bus to take her to the historic village of Ströbeck.

Acknowledgement

To Alex Hough for alerting me to the story


The Power and the Glory in the beautiful game and beyond: The Red Bull Leipzig case

October 15, 2014

Paul Hinks and Tudor Rickards

Red Bull Leipzig is one example of the way financial power is creating sporting success in football. In Germany, there has been a reaction from opposing fans on ethical and cultural grounds

Germany’s framework for sustainable football success centres on a “50+1” model where 51% of each club must be owned by its members – to date the model appears to have worked well in serving Germany’s football community.

The fans as important stakeholders

In brief, external parties (including large firms) are permitted to invest in Germany’s domestic football clubs – however they’re barred from having overall control. The boards are chosen by the club’s shareholders and its members (typically also supporters) These stakeholders directly influence how their club is run.

When Red Bull visited Union Berlin

On 21st September 2014 when Red Bull Leipzig played Union Berlin at their Försterei stadium, Red Bull Leipzig were greeted with 15 minutes of silence from the 20,000 Union Berlin spectators who were clad almost entirely in black. The Guardian provided more insight:

With permission from Union’s management, fans had handed out black plastic ponchos at the gates, along with a pamphlet headlined, “Football culture is dying in Leipzig – Union is alive”.

“Today’s opponent embodies everything that we at Union don’t want from football”, it read. “A marketing product pushed by financial interests […], players with euro signs in their eyes […], supported by brainwashed consumers in the stands who have never heard anything of fan ownership”.

A banner inside the stadium stated: “Football needs workers’ participation, loyalty, standing terraces, emotion, financial fair play, tradition, transparency, passion, history, independence.”

Not a black and white story

This not a simple story of right versus wrong, or David versus Goliath. It may be a battle between two sets of values. Berlin represents the communitarian values found in German league football. But that has to be connoted with the fact that idealism has not prevented the dominance of one club, Bayern Munich. Does this make Bayern the object of wider cultural opprobrium?
In the context of Red Bull, it has been argued [link in German] that some balancing financial power is needed to break the dominance of Bayern.

How about Real Madrid and Barcelona?

In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona are both financial powerhouses. Barca has a cosy communitarian image, Real the commercial and ruthless one. Again, it may not be as simple as that. Despite Barca’s splendid fan-friendly way and support of good causes, it has received favoured treatment at State level.

Power and Leadership

Despite Red Bull being portrayed as the villain by FC Berlin fans – there is something intriguing about Red Bull’s motives and what they’re aiming to achieve here. Red Bull has a track record of successful investment in other sporting franchises, so FC Leipzig isn’t some kind of new and bizarre experiment; Red Bull are following their previous blueprints for success at Red Bull Saltzberg and also at New York Red Bull.

The spirit of sport

No doubt, football romantics would prefer a vista where all are equal and everyone is given their equal chance. For Berlin’s fans to dress in black and lead a silence of 15mins demonstrates unity and belief in a set of values – values which are increasingly diluted in a football world dominated by high commercial stakes.


Germany v Brazil. A Hegelian nightmare of momentum and demoralization at the Football World Cup

July 9, 2014


Last night, a shocked global audience watched Germany defeat and humiliate host nation Brazil in The 2014 World Cup. Can the German philosopher Hegel offer insights to the astonishing happenings?

Searching for sense after the game [July 8th, 2014] I remembered the ideas of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The philosopher remains influential for his system of thought which considers the nature of contradictions and how they become integrated.

Triumph and its contradiction

So Germany whacking in seven goals suggests the presence of triumph and its contradiction, disaster.

Or maybe it was through the energized performance of the German team and the defeated efforts of the Brazilians which produced the 7-1 scoreline. Some would describe what happened in terms of momentum and demoralization.
Any which way, Hegel invites us to seek a synthesis emerging from the thesis and its antithesis in seeking understanding.

Demythologizing the game

Without synthesis the story has no satisfactory closure. A focus on a crushing victory and defeat risks the stabilizing of beliefs of superiority and inferiority in cultural terms. It may be better to recognize the events are in a limited time and space. We should beware of y wider stereotypes, of German efficiency and Brazilian creativity crippled or destroyed by the loss of key players.

At a stretch, I can just about reach a Hegelian synthesis in which the story of the specific and spectacular game tonight is demythologized. It is important to appreciate the power of myths and myth making.

Destiny

It is not destiny that will permit Germany to win the 2014 World Cup, it will be the interactions between two teams which have each earned their places in the final.

Note for fellow pedants
See this beginner’s guide to Hegel for an introduction to his logic. Note also that the three step process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis is widely used, but was never specifically characterized in these terms by Hegel.

What happened next …

Holland beat Brazil in the decider for third place no-one wants to play.

Germany and Argentina play a close final, and a brilliant goal by Gotze wins the World Cup for Germany and illuminates a drab game.

Scolari and his coaching team resign before they receive any more public humiliation.

Germany, spiritual home of Hegelian philosophy, welcomes its heroes with promises of redoubled efforts to retain world supremacy in Football.

Triumphalism, Humiliation, Rebirth. The cycle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis continues for Brazilian German football.


How should we read a statement by George Soros? Carefully.

March 13, 2014

George Soros If I could outguess George Soros I would be very clever and perhaps very rich. But I can offer a few observations about his history which may help interpret his recent comments about a new financial crisis

When George Soros speaks, the financial world listens. He has been speaking in the UK this week [March 2014] of the next financial crisis that he says will come about in part a consequence of weak financial leadership in Europe, and in particular in Germany.

He is particularly remembered for an enormous financial coup as the pound Sterling crashed at the time of Black Wednesday [16th September, 1992]. His success then was through a daring short-selling operation which can be admired for its daring or condemned for its contribution to a global economic crisis. Since then, his espousing of various social causes has led him to be pronounced ‘a dangerous leftist’ by Human Events’ readers, who in an online poll, recently voted him “the single most destructive leftist demagogue in the country.”

Soros is a big player

George is a capitalist superstar or a dangerous leftist supervillain. He may be speaking as an old man and a noted philanthropist concerned only to warn us that Europe is heading for yet more financial trouble. He may be speaking to avert or reduce such a crisis. He may be speaking with no personal agenda.

Or he may have the motives of a inveterate speculator

Or he may have the motives of a inveterate speculator, the gamester whose actions always designed to “tell” what he wants to reveal.

Or he may be plugging his new book

Or he may be plugging his new book, The Tragedy of the European Union, which was published this week, and which itself aligns with his libertarian political philosophy and his altruistic efforts.

Putting lipstick on a Rottweiler

To rephrase a term expressed by the American politician and folk philosopher Sarah Palin, you kin put lipstick on a Rottweiler but underneath it’s still a goddam Rotweiler .

Note to my students

I am not a supporter of either/or logic in assessing complex socio-economic issues. George Soros needs to be studied as a successful thought leader who shows consistency only in his skills of revealing what he wishes to reveal.


ONE THOUSAND POSTS: TEN INSPIRING WOMEN LEADERS

September 6, 2013

Leaders We Deserve has always regretted the gender bias in leadership cases. For our one thousandth post, here are ten female leaders in political life who deserve mention

Maybe this the shortest blog post ever in Leaders we deserve, but one pointing to a a serious bias in leadership cases. <a href="Takepart website“>The list of ten political leaders originally appeared on the Take Part web site which supplies excellent images of all ten women. They represent various shades of political opinion, sexual orientation, private and public controversies, education, background, and numbers of assassination attempts survived. Your editor intends to include them in the next edition of the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership.

How many of the leaders can you match with their countries without further web-surfing?

The Leaders:

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Angela Merkel
Dalia Grybauskaite
Dilma Rousseff
Johanna Sigurdardottir
Sheikh Hasina Wajed
Tarja Halonen
Laura Chinchilla
Julia Gillard
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

The Countries:
Argentina
Australia
Bangladesh
Brazil
Costa Rica
Finland
Germany
Iceland
Liberia
Lithuania

Acknowledgements

Takepart website where you can find images of all ten leaders.

Sean Gardner ‏@2morrowknight for his tweet which alerted me to the site.


E Coli, Cucumbers and the Consequences of Modernity

May 30, 2011

Tudor Rickards

Update: The initial reports of the source of the E-Coli deaths in Germany last week [May 2011] were later revised pending more careful analysis. An excellent review from CTVNews provided an informed view of the outbreak

Tim Sly, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Ryerson University in Toronto, notes that this epidemic appears to be due to a double whammy: salad vegetables that haven’t been cooked (which would normally kill off most E. coli bacteria) and the use of organic growing methods.

“Organic foods are by definition fertilized with animal droppings and that’s where E. coli exists,” Sly noted in an interview with CTV.ca.

“We’ve been prophesying for a long time that as people move into organic foods, we’re going to get more of these (outbreaks).”

He says E. coli tends to be a surface contaminant that can simply be washed off. But if someone doesn’t wash their vegetables thoroughly, there can be problems.

“If you’re going to be eating organic food and you’re going to be eating them raw, you do need to exercise much more sanitation and hygiene, with washing and peeling. Which is something that we should be doing anyways,” Sly notes.

Initial post

The BBC reported that cucumbers infected with the E-Coli bacterium had produced deaths around Europe. The infections may be seen as another dilemma of modernity and its consequences.

The death toll in Germany from an outbreak of E.coli caused by infected cucumbers has risen to at least 10. The cucumbers, believed to have been imported from Spain, were contaminated with E.coli which left people ill with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS).

Modernity and its consequences

Modernity has given us drugs to combat disease. It has also given us diseases which combat drugs. It has given us protection from the environment, as well as inflicting grave insults to the environment.

Organic farming and its consequences

This week, we have been reminded of the principle of unintended consequences. The cucumbers were grown under conditions of organic farming. Intensive farming has its environmental insults. Organic farming too has its unintended consequences.


Horst Geschka: ‘Mr Creativity’ of Germany

November 5, 2009



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Originally uploaded by t.rickards

Horst Geschka is known as ‘Mr Creativity of Germany’. His fifty years of involvement with technological innovation and creativity were celebrated recently at his home town of Darmstadt

The event took place at the Maritim Hotel, [28th October 2009]. The workshop on creativity and innovation was accompanied by presentation of a 600 page book, a festschrift, acknowledging his lifetime achievements in the field. The event and book shared the title Immer eine Idee voraus (Always one idea ahead).

The first pages of the book list Horst’s achievements including his role as co-founder of significant European networks and as a great supporter and board member of the journal Creativity and Innovation Management, and the associated conferences. The University of Darmstadt pointed out his 50 year association since his student days. This surely is a record likely to remain unbroken for a long time. Another title was conferred on Horst by long-time friend Sid Parnes, who described him as Germany’s Mr Creativity (Herr Kreativität) of Germany.

His technical contributions to the study of creativity applications are numerous. His publications reveal his efforts to classify, apply and evaluate the impact of creativity techniques, particularly in German industrial organizations.

Hot off the press

On my arrival in Darmstadt, the day before the event, co-editor of the book, Martina Schwartz-Geschka (with Peter Harland) explained that it was still with the publishers. However, she assured me the first run would be delivered an hour before the workshop cheduled to start time. This all seemed a bit too ‘just in Time’ for me. But Martina was correct, and the books arrived as promised. They were almost literally hot off the press, and their pages had hardly settled down. (It takes a couple of weeks after binding a new book for its pages to become nicely compacted).

The event, like the book, had its contributions either in English or German. Some speakers reached back to the foundations of systematic studies of creativity and its applications in Europe for economic ends. Other contributors came from younger emerging leaders in the field. Among the former, Professor Jan Buijs spoke amusingly and movingly of the chance incident which put him in contact with Horst in 1974, at the Battelle Institute, Frankfurt. The meeting was to shape Jan’s future career. Jan and his colleague Dr Frido Smulders were making a remarkable trip from Delft to Brussels. Their drive to Darmstadt was quite a diversion (about 1000 km.) This trip was necessary so that they would be able to participate in the event and then make presentations at a creativity conference in Belgium the following day.

A long diversion

There should have been a team of two presenters from the UK. However, my co-presenter Susan Moger had executive education duties to deal with in Manchester. She had entrusted me to convey both our respect to Horst, and to summarize our Festschrift article. Our theme was the relationships between creativity, group leadership and effectiveness. We believe that successful project teams have leaders help team members fulfil their individual potential for contributions. This work in Manchester can be traced to our earlier collaboration with Horst Geschka and his team at Darmstadt going back to an Anglo-German Foundation grant in the 1970s in my case.

A historical perspective into creativity was provided by Professor Dr Heiner Muller-Merbach. He touched on the theories of Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer as well as West Churchman, and other management scientists. He also drew on his own contributions to the Operations Research field.

A rewarding experience

A new generation of researchers into applied creativity was also well-represented. Professor Martin Mohrle outlined his work integrating two important bodies of work for idea generation, namely Morphological Analysis, and TRIZ. As he expressed it, this permits the building of a bridge between Morpholand and Trizland.

Dr Wolfgang Kneijski outlined applied successes in innovation projects in today’s knowledge society. And in an appropriate counterpoint, Dr Karin Eggert outlined approaches for approaching risk management necessary, but often inadequately treated by many innovation researchers, particularly those concerned with the exploratory aspects of innovation.

Overall, the day was an excellent celebration of “50 years of engagement with innovation work” a triumph for the organizing team, and a rewarding experience for the participants.