Headology Demystified

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in Book review, Coaching, Conference | One Comment

What Agile Coaches Can Learn From Discworld Witches

Last week at Agile2013, I did a lightning talk in the people track. I talked about my learnings and insights from reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, specifically those about Tiffany, a young girl learning to become a witch. Apart from these books being some of the best coming-of-age-novels I know, I found great similarities between the ways coaches and witches have in dealing with people. I learned more about coaching from these books than from all the books about coaching I read, together. And those are quite a few as well…

These are the books, ordered by publishing date (and Tiffany’s age) along with my favourite quotes:

[amazon asin=”0060012382″ template=”simpleimage”] “Them as can do, has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”
“What they did was sell invisible things. And after they’d sold what they had, they still had it. They sold what everyone needed but often didn’t want. They sold the key to the universe to people who didn’t even know it was locked.”
“It didn’t stop being magic just because you found out how it was done.”
“‘To find the school for witches, go to a high place near here, climb to the top, open your eyes …’ Miss Tick hesitated. ‘Yes?’ ‘… and then open your eyes again.’”
“‘Are you listening?’ ‘Yes,’ said Tiffany. ‘Good. Now … if you trust in yourself …’ ‘Yes?’ ‘… and believe in your dreams …’ ‘Yes?’ ‘… and follow your star …’ Miss Tick went on. ‘Yes?’ ‘… you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.’”

[amazon asin=”0060586621″ template=”simpleimage”] “Things aren’t important. People are.”
“It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.”
“You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your minds and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming!”
“”AAargwannawannaagongongonaargggaaaaBLOON!” [is] the traditional sound of a very small child learning that with balloons, as with life itself, it is important to know when not to let go of the string. The whole point of balloons is to teach small children this.”
“I’m made up of the memories of my parents and grandparents, all my ancestors. They’re in the way I look, in the colour of my hair. And I’m made up of everyone I’ve ever met who’s changed the way I think. So who is “me”?”

[amazon asin=”0060890339″ template=”simpleimage”] “People wanted the world to be a story, because stories had to sound right and they had to make sense. People wanted the world to make sense.”
“and doing witchcraft in small ways. Mostly it seemed to just consist of gossip, but once you got the hang of it, you could hear the magic happening. Nanny Ogg changed the way people thought, even if it was only for a few minutes. She left people thinking they were slightly better people. They weren’t, but as Nanny said, it gave them something to live up to.”
“This I choose to do. If there is a price, this I choose to pay. If it is my death, then I choose to die. Where this takes me, there I choose to go. I choose. This I choose to do.”
“It was lonely on the hill, and cold. And all you could do was keep going. You could scream, cry, and stamp your feet, but apart from making you feel warmer, it wouldn’t do any good. You could say it was unfair, and that was true, but the universe didn’t care because it didn’t know what “fair” meant. That was the big problem about being a witch. It was up to you. It was always up to you.”
“You had to deal every day with people who were foolish and lazy and untruthful and downright unpleasant, and you could certainly end up thinking that the world would be considerably improved if you gave them a slap. But you didn’t because, as Miss Tick had once explained: a) it would make the world a better place for only a very short time; b) it would then make the world a slightly worse place; and c) you’re not supposed to be as stupid as they are.”

[amazon asin=”0061433063″ template=”simpleimage”] “I think I wanted to tell you that it all works out, more or less. It all falls into place. You’ve taken the first step.” “There’s a second step?” said Tiffany. “No; there’s another first step. Every step is a first step if it’s a step in the right direction.”
“It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”
“Learning is about finding out who you are, what you are, where you are and what you are standing on and what you are good at and what’s over the horizon and, well, everything. It’s about finding the place where you fit.”
“The witch was the pointy hat, and the pointy hat was the witch. It made people careful about you. They would be respectful, oh yes, and often a little bit nervous, as if they expected you to look inside their heads, which as a matter of fact you could probably do, using the good old witch’s standbys of First Sight and Second Thoughts.6 But these weren’t really magic. Anyone could learn them if they had a lick of sense, but sometimes even a lick is hard to find. People are often so busy living that they never stopped to wonder why. Witches did, and that meant them being needed: oh yes, needed – needed practically all the time, but not, in a very polite and definitely unspoken way, not exactly wanted.”
“First Sight means that you can see what really is there, and Second Thoughts mean thinking about what you are thinking. And in Tiffany’s case, there were sometimes Third Thoughts and Fourth Thoughts, although these were quite difficult to manage and sometimes led her to walk into doors.”

Enjoy the read!

And these are my slides… Created with the wonderfully simple HaikuDeck.


1 Comment

  1. Chris Read
    August 16, 2013

    As a person who has all of the Discworld books I love this angle of looking at things. I’d never thought of applying Granny to work though.

    You’ve also missed out on a lot of the earlier Headology gems from Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade and Carpe Jugulum.


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