Profile for Roger Greenaway > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Roger Greenaway
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,655,797
Helpful Votes: 41

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Roger Greenaway (Stirling, Scotland United Kingdom)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2
pixel
The Philosophy Game
The Philosophy Game
by Mark Davidson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Vibrant clarity of thinking woven into a parallel journey of 'getting' capoeira, 12 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Philosophy Game (Paperback)
This is a book I will be reading more than once so that I can enjoy again the clarity of philosophical insights that are so carefully woven into this novel. Its form reminds me of Robert Pirsig's classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In both books the philosophy is contained within the story. In The Philosophy Game there is a much tighter interweaving of story and philosophy. This is well suited to the main character's preference for a real world philosophy rather than an abstract and remote one.

It is no surprise from the title that philosophy plays a significant role in this novel, but Gus Falconer, the narrator-philosopher, also shares his many passions for poetry, drama, rock climbing, mountain biking and (most of all) capoeira – where we follow his initiation into this "game" through to his mastering of it. It comes as no surprise that the final integration of "game" and "philosophy" is achieved with the aid of capoeira.

The novel starts and finishes with poetry, and much of the writing is enriched by poetic language that adds vibrancy to the prose: I felt that I could reach, touch and taste Gus's world. The story moves through many locations including Scotland, Ireland and Brazil where Gus hones his skills in the home of capoeria - this powerful mix of martial art, dance, music, singing and drumming. These activities also take Gus into relationships in which his passion for philosophy becomes an awkward third partner.

The novel has a strong autobiographical feel to it which adds to its authenticity and impact. In the end, the boundary between fact and fiction is unimportant. There is a related question about whether this novel should be treated as a novel or a serious work of philosophy – or both. As a work of philosophy, if Gus (or Mark Davidson, the author) is to be believed, then this is a work of considerable achievement. Gus follows the inspiration of Wittgenstein by demonstrating that many so-called philosophical problems do not exist in the real world. Gus finds some answers in Margaret Donaldson's "Human Minds" (p.98) which he paraphrases as follows: "The world itself fits together seamlessly – there are no cracks in the fabric of reality – so, when the jigsaw pieces of our models of the world don't fit together neatly, it's because they've been shaped by historical [accident] and not by the forms of the world itself."

By the end of the novel Gus has created a relatively simple philosophy based on the structure and "grammar" of games. Life is represented as multiple games – games that you get to know and understand by playing them. Perhaps you can be taught the basic grammar of a game, but a full appreciation of the grammar can only be discovered by playing the game again and again. Playing within the grammar of a game is seen as aesthetically satisfying, whereas ungrammatical moves are seen as jarring or "ugly".

Gus is treated as an interesting but junior philosopher by the academics he meets. Is this because Gus's approach to philosophy is too radical for the establishment to respect him? Or is it because he is expected to serve a more thorough apprenticeship before his work will be taken seriously by them? I found the end of the novel satisfying on many levels. I was left feeling deeply impressed with the elegance of the ending. Philosophical problems are dissolved and Gus's philosophy game is over. This is not a spoiler: you would be most unlikely to appreciate the significance of the ending without taking the journey.


The Well-Played Game: A Player's Philosophy
The Well-Played Game: A Player's Philosophy
by Bernard De Koven
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unconventional classic with great insights about how we play together, 4 Dec. 2013
If the title sounds familiar, it might be because 'The Well-Played Game' was first published in 1978 and was followed by a revised edition in 2002. Its re-publication in 2013 gives these playful insights a new lease of life. The 2013 edition also includes a new foreword by Eric Zimmerman and a new preface by the author, Bernie de Koven.

'The Well-Played Game' is difficult to classify because it is so original and unconventional. For example, it ends with a 'Nonconclusion' comprising four 'Inklings'. The three main reasons that I enjoyed re-reading this unique treatise are:

1. It is a detailed forensic analysis of how games (of all kinds) work - providing clear insights into the social 'DNA' of a well-played game.
2. The style is entertaining and playful - making the journey wonderfully consistent with the subject of a well-played game.
3. There is an unrelenting focus on the experience of a well-played game.

As with all good books, it can be enjoyed at many levels - as a player of games, as a play leader, as a game designer, or as a designer/facilitator of any activities (educational or recreational). By the end of the book I could even accept the author's "Inkling # 3" that "If we can create even larger games that we can all play together - all of us - then there will be no separation between us and others, no we and they. We will all be one community. All one species."

The well-played game is a process. Details of the process include intriguing concepts like 'The Well-Timed Cheat', 'The Fair Witness', 'The Practice Game', 'The Bent Rule', 'Restoring Balance', 'Quitting' and 'Quitting Practice'.

As an example, the logic of 'Quitting Practice' goes something like this: to be sure that we are playing with people who want to be playing, we need to be sure that people feel able to quit the game whenever they want to. So practising quitting makes it easier for people to leave and serves to increase our confidence that everyone who is playing is playing because they still want to play and not because they feel obliged to play. Playing a game that you no longer want to play is clearly not a recipe for a well-played game.

But what if a quitter wants to rejoin the game? That should be OK too, so there is a section on 'Getting Back In'. And there is a section on 'Being Left Alone' - which is how someone who quits may prefer to be treated by former playmates.

This is just a taste of what you will find. There are many more such angles on playing well that may not seem that relevant when first encountered, but soon turn out to be yet another essential feature of a well-played game. Every new angle triggers my own memories of game playing or other life experiences that would readily support its inclusion in this treatise on the well-played game.

And then there are things that happen outside the game itself - such as 'The Prelude', 'The Interlude' and 'The Postlude' (such as the 19th hole) - which all deserve consideration. Even within a game there are rituals which may not be strictly part of the game but can still contribute to a game being well-played - such as the stories or theatre games that precede a game of tag.

And in case my examples make this book seem to be all about children's play, I can assure you that the concepts and practices apply to all ages. There are also some more adult-like games considered: 'The Con Game', 'Poker', 'Dangerous Play' (such as war games), and 'The Well-Struck Bargain'.

Bernie's writing makes me smile and brings me many 'aha' moments. It has been a considerable influence on my own approach to designing (and playing) debriefing games, such as making it easy for people to opt in and out, designing half games that leave space for participants' creativity, and always keeping the Joker (wild card) in play - giving everyone the right and opportunity to change the game.

As in 2003, I thoroughly recommend this book - it is still full of fresh insights that are credible, playable and strangely familiar. (Roger Greenaway, 2013)

The author, Bernie de Koven also has a very active and playful presence as Major Fun at [...]


The Experiential Learning Toolkit: Blending Practice with Concepts
The Experiential Learning Toolkit: Blending Practice with Concepts
by Colin Beard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £50.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a wide variety of tools for making learning more real and engaging, 8 Nov. 2011
There are not enough books like The Experiential Learning Toolkit: books that seek to balance theory and practice in an integrated and useful way. The core structure of this toolkit is The Learning Combination Lock presented in earlier handbooks (2002 Power of Experiential Learning: A Handbook for Trainers and Educators and 2006 Experiential Learning: A Best Practice Handbook for Educators and Trainers). This lock is modestly introduced as 'one approach' for 'attending to the whole person'. Each ring of the lock represents one of Beard's six dimensions of experiential learning (belonging, doing, sensing, feeling, knowing, and being) and each dimension contains 5 illustrative tools.

And then the surprises begin! The 'tool' or 'experience' can be anything from question cards to a tall ship, from an exercise in classifying nuts and bolts to service learning in the community. Some of the tools are for reflecting on experiences that have already happened ('Ace of Spades', 'String Lines' and 'Comic Strips'), some (like 'Listening to Silence', 'Blindfold' and 'Antiques Roadshow') are for generating present experiences, some are for skills development ('Altering Reality' for negotiation skills, 'Hearing Voices' for telephone skills', 'The Marketplace' for creative thinking skills) and others (such as 'How to get to...' and 'Unmasking') are for exploring future possibilities. This variety of what constitutes a 'tool' appears to be deliberately mind-expanding: whatever you thought experiential learning was at the outset, you will end up with a much bigger picture of the possibilities.

The author is a National Teaching Fellow and a Professor of Experiential Learning, so it should be no surprise that many of the tools are suitable for teachers and lecturers wanting to make their lessons more experiential. The author's background in environmental work is clear and is the inspiration for many tools. And there are examples from the author's work in corporate training throughout all dimensions. Despite this broad range of contexts there are few tools that cannot be tweaked to be of value beyond the context in which they are described.

A significant strength of this book is that most tools are original. Many of the tools have been developed and tested by the author in a variety of contexts. I am also impressed by the range of tools that use space and spatial relationships. Some involve moving labels and objects ('Different Ways to Know', 'Nuts and Bolts', 'How to get to ...'). Others involve giant models or maps on which participants move ('Just Four Steps', 'Ace of Spades' and 'Walk the Talk'). Seeing, touching, moving and making are fully integrated into most of these tools.

Some tools really challenge the boundaries of 'experiential learning'. The concept becomes so broad that it seems that 'experience' (and consequently 'experiential learning') can be just about anything you want it to be ('Experience' can apparently be a session plan, an activity within the session, what the trainer 'delivers', what the learner feels ...). The regular appearance of the words 'experiential' and 'experientially' made me increasingly unsure about the differences between 'experiential activity' and 'activity'; between 'experientially exploring' and 'exploring'; between 'experientially engaging' and 'engaging'; and ultimately between 'experiential learning' and 'learning'. 'Experiential learning' is a famously slippery concept that continues to evade precise definition. But the term 'experiential' does signal a commitment to working with the whole person. And how can anyone be troubled by this intention? According to the author, the book is about "creating learning that is more engaging, more effective and more embedded". If this book were entitled 'The Engaging-Effective-Embedded Learning Toolkit' it might be more accurate, but 'Experiential Learning' remains the best label we have for this significant area of practice even if it is a little frayed around the theoretical edges.

There is no concluding chapter but the second last tool reads very much like the author's final message. The full title of this tool is: 'Service Learning: Social and Environmental Responsibility'. Beard writes: "Many organisations are now substituting environmental activities or community-based activities in place of recreational pursuits such as raft building, climbing or abseiling." The author argues that service learning doubles the value of experiential learning because there is a wider benefit to the community. In addition he writes, "real projects seem to have a positive motivational impact on client learning, affecting the way in which participants engage in learning from experience".

I am persuaded by the author's commitment to making learning more real - a thread that is common to all the tools in this wide-ranging toolkit.


Obliquity: Why our goals are best achieved indirectly
Obliquity: Why our goals are best achieved indirectly
by John Kay
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A more sophisticated version of 3 wishes folktales?, 1 Jan. 2011
New Year goal setting rituals don't work for everyone. 'Obliquity' explains why. John Kay does not write about getting fit or losing weight, but he does explain why taking the direct route to happiness and wealth (or anywhere else) often fails.

Obliquity appealed to me because I know people who struggle with setting goals and targets, and yet they are 'achievers'. So there must be less direct (and possibly much better) ways of achieving. Maybe different people simply use different strategies. But 'Obliquity' is far more interesting than this. It helps us understand why target setting destabilises or even destroys the very systems that are needed to achieve the targets. John Kay's primary perspective is economics, but he helps us see the same phenomena in many other spheres of human activity.

Obliquity kept bringing to mind those folktales where the main character is given three wishes and wastes the first two (and sometimes all three) because the goal is stated too narrowly. The moral of these tales is usually that it is not good to be greedy. But John Kay's version would be that however greedy or altruistic the goal, the direct route is likely to fail.

'Very rarely does a brilliant idea emerge that is brand new' reads the cover, but inside John Kay acknowledges many sources and ideas 'some of which have been around for millenia'. So it is not 'brand new' but it does provide a highly readable way in to systems thinking.

The Obliquity thesis is itself quite oblique and elusive: it seems strong on examples but short on logic. At its simplest, the logic at first seems to be, if you want A head for B or C (but not for X, Y or Z because they are too far away from what you really want). But then the logic slips into something like this: if you really want A, then find a B (a neighbouring goal) that you want even more than A. And while prioritising B, you stand a better chance of achieving A than you would if your were prioritising A. John Kay has many examples to illustrate this. But what if you apply the same argument to B? Would you stand a better chance of achieving B if you were to identify a C that you want more than a B? And so on, and so on.

This kind of logic could lead to ever 'higher' goals and it could eventually lead to mapping and understanding the whole system. But Kay prefers that we get going now and work things out as we go along because we are intervening in a dynamic evolving system and because our values, insights and goals may themselves change during our journey.

Many of Kay's examples would align closely with the morality of three wishes folk tales: greed does not pay. But there are sufficient other examples to show that Obliquity is primarily about working wisely and effectively in complex systems. In which case I should be praising John Kay for bringing clarity (and useful insights) to complexity, rather than criticising him for not bringing even greater clarity.


Beyond Adventure An Inner Journey
Beyond Adventure An Inner Journey
by Colin Mortlock
Edition: Paperback

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fascinating reflections on a life of adventure, 18 Oct. 2004
Colin Mortlock reflects on a life of adventure: climbing, kayaking, offshore catamaran sailing, solo kayaking, solo wilderness walks and (more recently) identifying wild flowers.
Adventures and reflections are mixed in a proportion in a way that echoes the author's view that "Quality action and quality reflection on that action are of fundamental equal importance"
It is the story of an adventurer and educator who is fascinated by the occasions on which he has felt "at one" with nature. These were moments of awe, wonder or synchronicity when canoeing, sailing, climbing or walking.
I prefer Beyond Adventure (2001) to the The Adventure Alternative (1984) because it is more autobiographical, more adventurous and more authentic. Colin Mortlock's style is sometimes awkward especially when he is struggling to interpret his "flow" experiences, but he does so in a plain language that makes his story accessible to all.


Junkyard Sports
Junkyard Sports
by Bernie DeKoven
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Make sports fun again, 18 Oct. 2004
This review is from: Junkyard Sports (Paperback)
The subtitle explains everything: 'Make sports fun again!'
All sports started out as fun. Then they got organised. And during their transformation into sports with rules, competitions, prizes and professionals, much of the fun disappeared.
For those familiar with the 'Cooperative Sports' or 'New Games' movements this is not a new message. What is new is the idea of getting participants to design new games that they can then enjoy playing and adapting as they go. The idea of adapting popular sports provides a handy short cut - and appeals to the subversive in us all.
Because Junkyard Sports encourages players' own creativity, the process described in the opening pages could lead to hundreds of new games. Just in case they don't, you will find that most of the book is dedicated to describing ready-made and ready-to-play games - 77 games in all. These are called 'demonstration' games. This active initiation into Junkyard Sports inspires participants to create and try out their own games.
The game titles give you the flavour: Ad Hoc Golf Soccer, Everybody Has a Ball Hockey, Goodminton, Hide-and-Seek Hockey, Musical Basketless Basketball, Spoon Football, Wheelchair Doubles Basketball.
The games can be played for pure fun. The author also sees plenty of scope for achieving many worthy goals through Junkyard Sports and provides many tips on how games can be made more inclusive - by the participants, and by a few cunning rule changes. For example, games normally played between two sides can be played by three sides or one side. Or you can add extra balls, or add a goal, or add a rule, or take a rule away or borrow a rule from another game.
The book has a youth and community work feel to it, but with a tweak here and there the concept and the tips for game design will be of interest to people who are looking for new ideas for team development exercises - especially if you also want to develop creativity and break the mould.
Whether you buy the book for fun or for work, you will find that you can use it for both. One thing that is guaranteed is that whatever people end up playing, they won't have played it before.
The author captured the essence of game-playing in his book 'The Well-Played Game'. That spirit and wisdom lives on in 'Junkyard Sports'. 'The Well-Played Game' is wonderfully thought-provoking, whereas 'Junkyard Sports' is more 'game-provoking' - with the introductory words of wisdom squeezed into a 30 page prelude to the 130 pages of demonstration games.
My only criticisms are that 'The Well-Played Game' was a bit short on practical ideas and 'Junkyard Sports' is a bit thin on explaining the thinking that has inspired these games. Read them both and you have perfect partners.
You can learn more at the book's web site:
[...]
For UK readers it is 4 star rather than 5 star because some of the root games may be not as familiar as they are to USA participants.


Sharing Nature with Children
Sharing Nature with Children
by Joseph Bharat Cornell
Edition: Paperback

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars still exciting after all these years, 26 Sept. 2004
This beautifully designed and illustrated book is a real classic. A brief and compelling outline of the author's philosophy is followed by a series of games that help young people (of all ages!) see, feel, hear and touch nature in new ways that sensitise, educate and excite.
Despite its 'age' there are millions of young people who would find most of the games new and inspirational.


Dictionary of Personal Development
Dictionary of Personal Development
by Tosey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £45.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than a dictionary - it also sorts facts from fads, 29 Aug. 2004
This dictionary provides instant access to the collective wisdom of the Human Potential Research Group at the University of Surrey and draws on concepts used in their Change Agent Skills and Strategies MSc course. Their values are holistic and humanistic and reflect the views of their Founder, John Heron.
It is more than a dictionary. It is usually clear about which concepts are well substantiated and which are not. For example, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is put in its place (speculative); they pour cold water on Firewalking (mistaking momentary euphoria for lasting confidence); and they describe left-brain/right-brain distinctions as lacking scientific truth but nonetheless providing a useful metaphor.
The absence of diagrams is a serious handicap such as when trying to describe the resizeable panes of a Johari Window or the relationships between job size and capability in a Flow Channel or the appearance of a Mind Map. Only a few extra pages would be needed to allow you to search this dictionary by author as well as by concept. Despite these frustrations it is still excellent value as an authoratitive timesaver.


The Atlas of Experience
The Atlas of Experience
by Louise van Swaaij
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth buying for the maps alone, 26 Jun. 2004
While adhering to the conventions of cartography, this atlas invites travellers to follow routes through familiar-looking topography to realms of imagination, ideas, feelings and experience. It encompasses the Ocean of Possibilites, the Swamps of Boredom, the City of Boom and the Airport of Escape.
Two Dutch cartographers get carried away with the idea that life is a journey and can be represented on maps. The text between the maps is suitably thought-provoking and inspirational, but it feels like two books in one. I would have enjoyed even closer integration between the text and the maps, but it's worth buying for the maps alone. There is plenty of scope for the creative trainer to turn this coffee table novelty into a powerful tool for reflection. Some might say that Tony Buzan has done the job already with Mind Mapping. But this is different and more magical. It is like Treasure Island or The Phantom Tolbooth - for grown ups.


Cooperative Sports and Games Book: Challenge without Competition
Cooperative Sports and Games Book: Challenge without Competition
by Terry Orlick
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Small rule changes make a big difference, 24 Jun. 2004
One or two simple rule changes can make all the difference. I fail to understand why parents continue to play elimination 'games' at children's parties. This book is truly inclusive and illustrates countless ways of creating success without also creating failure.
Inspired by this book we have converted elimination games into much better ones and have used the same principles to design and develop new training exercises.


Page: 1 | 2