Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Of all those funky aids to doing life well that the maestros of 'self help' (and other pop psych and fast capitalist genres) offer up, the one i have always liked the most is Win-Win. Not least, because it so often works -- especially in academic settings, for some reason or another (smile).

Anyway, over the years I have maintained more than a passing interest in high-touch win-wins, in part for a reason I will come to in a paragraph or so. The trouble is that good win-wins are, for me, like good jokes. I tend to forget them. However, notwithstanding all the forgettings over the years, today brings what has to be, for me, one of the bestgoing round.

In the mid 80s, whilst still in bondage to modernist madnesses, I got in behind a former student leader in his bid to become mayor of a large New Zealand city (not that large New Zealand cities are large in a larger sense). Tim Shadbolt won his first election against all odds, but had a hard time of it because the city council comprised people almost entirely opposed to him. So next time round Tim took a team in with him -- Tim's Team. They swept the election. With ample space now in which to move, Tim moved toward some big ideas. One of these was to build a dome in Waitemata City. Of course, all us modernists thought this was a crazy thing to do. People needed other things first. Good grief, Waitemata City needed a dome like some hamlet in Puerto Rico might need a UFO landing strip.

This, of course, was before Win-Win. In fact, if anything, Tim looked more likely to be playing something that was a cross between Lose-Lose and Russian Roulette. Even his Team turned against him and he was voted out -- with the team -- at the next election.

Tim, however, was blessed to be made of strong stuff and an indomitable sense of humour. He turned his attentions to the South. To be precise, Invercargill -- where summers are like winters anywhere else. He ran a campaign of deep integrity: his slogan -- or one of them -- ran "I don't care where, so long as I'm mayor'. Great stuff.

He won. In fact, he keeps winning.

And he finally mastered Win-Win, it seems. I mean, it's a pretty big ask to attract people and enterprise to Invercargill. As I understand it, Tim hit on a pretty wacko idea.

Free tertiary education.

Check it out.

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