Posts By Rudolf Kabutz

23 Dec 2013 RudolfKabutz

7 Steps for Planning a Low Carbon Footprint Holiday

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Regent University - Robertson Hall

Living according to the lifestyle of the so-called “developed world” needs the resources of about three worlds to sustain. While our daily routines have a significant impact on the environment, our holidays impact the scarce resources of this world even more. How can we plan holidays with a smaller carbon footprint?

  1. Travel shorter distances to nearby holiday destinations.
    In contrast: traveling to destinations that are far away uses much more jet fuel or petrol, which depletes the limited oil reserves and pollutes the environment.
  2. Choose small, rural accommodations such as private farms or cottages, which might be utilizing more natural sustainable resources.
    In contrast: visiting large holiday resorts or hotels might sound attractive, but these enterprises use huge amounts of energy for building materials, food, water and electricity. Read more
14 Nov 2013 RudolfKabutz

Can you? Can I? Can We?… Be Change Agents?

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Regent University - street signsOr should everything inside of us and around us rather remain the same?

Those of us who follow Jesus are encouraged to be “change agents” for themselves, for the individuals around them, and for society. Read more

01 Jul 2013 RudolfKabutz

Driving in the Slow Lane

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Regent University - highwayAre you one of those people that prefer to drive in the fast lane? Well, I am wired this way so that whatever I am doing, I want it to move fast.

Just recently, the engine of our vehicle was overhauled. All the cylinders were bored out, new pistons and rings fitted, and many other movable parts replaced. After so many changes, all the new pieces of the engine need time to adjust towards each other. They need to settle in. For the first 1000 km I can only drive at a maximum speed of 100 km/h (~62mph). At the moment I am unable to drive in the fast lane, so I rather drive in the slow lane. Read more

26 Apr 2013 RudolfKabutz

The Broken Bicycle Spoke

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Regent University - Broken bicycle spokeWhat’s that noise? I was gently cycling on a smooth road. Suddenly, I heard a disturbing noise coming from the rear wheel of my mountain bike. This sound was unfamiliar, different from when a blade of grass or twig was tangled in the mechanism. I stopped quickly and had a look. It was pretty obvious – one of my spokes had broken! I bike very frequently, I’ve been on many adventurous trails, zipped over many rocks, and navigated through countless challenging valleys. The spokes were always fine. But now, suddenly, my bike’s wheel was experiencing what engineer’s call “metal fatigue.”

What do you do with a broken spoke? It would be easy to just bend the spoke out of the way so it wouldn’t make noise every time the wheel turned. I could continue riding, and wouldn’t even notice that the wheel had one-less spoke. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to jump over obstacles or ride over large rocks, because then even more spokes would break. If I carried on riding, one spoke after another would fail and eventually the whole wheel would come off. Read more

04 Feb 2013 RudolfKabutz

Life in the Era of Unstable Tennis Balls

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Regent University - ping pongThere was a time when people played table-tennis just for fun. This was the age before computers, Game Boys and PSPs. Yet times have changed. Is the dramatic change really so dramatic?

Today, 30 years later, I took up the table-tennis rackets again with the kids. The old skills improved quickly, until… one of the youngsters brought along a little egg-shaped plastic ball! “You can now play with this egg,” was the simple instruction. After a few shots, amidst lots of giggling, we realized we could not continue like this! The movement of the egg-shaped ball was totally unpredictable. Even with the best anticipation of the movement, there was no way we could figure out in which direction the odd-shaped ball would move. The movement was inherently non-linear, so that we could not carry on playing by the old rules. So we gave up!
As a teenager, I used to really enjoy hitting a little white round ball across a table for hours on end. The repetitive click-clock-click-clack surely irritated my mother, but she never complained about it. The game was quite easy: when you hit the ball with a certain force in a certain direction, it usually moved in that direction, and after a bit of practice hitting the ball became quite easy. We added more excitement to the game by adding a little spin when hitting the ball, which made the movement of the ball a little more unpredictable upon impact. Yet when the opponent also hit with spin, the ball could be returned fairly accurately.

Is this the same way that our world has changed? Instead of linear, predictable movements requiring simple skills, the global environment has become odd-shaped with non-linear, unpredictable changes that require very different competencies. This has occurred in the economy, technology, politics, society, media, and even in the environment. The old rules do not work anymore. Neither does the old understanding of the world. So where to from here? Complexity requires complex answers, and chaotic movements need systems thinking. This is the point at which strategic foresight comes in. We want to ask new questions: What new goals do we want to aim for? Whereto could these non-linear movements take us? By which new rules should we play? And how can we still enjoy the game of non-linear movements?

As future thinkers, we could come up with a new game that does not require predictable straight-line movements of little white balls, but that could purposefully involve the erratic movements of small egg-shaped objects jumping in all sorts of directions. What should we call it – “unstable tennis?”

13 Dec 2012 RudolfKabutz

The Jumping Unicyclist

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Regent University - unicycle jumpWhen I travel to a huge city, I ask myself, “How long has it taken for all this to be built?” I also ask myself, “How long will all this still remain as it is?” While my mind moves into the past and explores that which has come before us, my mind also moves into the future to explore that which is still to come.

Before I started with a systematic way of exploring the future through the Masters of Strategic Foresight at Regent University, my thoughts about the future just drifted off and disappeared again without becoming useful. I just felt overwhelmed by thinking about the future.

When my son started learning to ride a unicycle, he realized how difficult it is and how long it takes to be able to balance and ride with only the one wheel. But it did not take too long, and then riding along a flat stretch became almost second nature to him. To learn more, my son started trying to jump with the unicycle, which is even more difficult. One day, he came to me and joyfully said, “Dad, now I can jump with my unicycle. Even riding on uneven mountain paths now is easy. The rocks that previously were obstacles on the cycling path have become fun challenges: I actually want to overcome them, because I now know I can do it!”

Using strategic foresight to explore the future was a similar experience to me. Initially I felt overwhelmed by questions about the future, but then the obstacles of the future became fun challenges. The foresight methodologies now bring joy when intimidating questions can be explored and addressed.

What questions about the future are intimidating you now? By learning skills of dealing with the future, you may begin enjoying the challenge of overcoming obstacles–or maybe, like the unicyclist, just jumping right over them!

24 Oct 2012 RudolfKabutz

The Future-Thinking Mountain Biker

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On a lovely fresh morning, we went mountain biking in the largest known meteorite crater on earth. The crater located at Vredefort in South Africa. The overall diameter of this crater is about 300 kilometers. The wild-card event of the meteorite hitting earth turned a depth of 17 kilometers of rock layers upside-down, which led to a significant change of events many years later: gold, which is otherwise located at a depth of about 3 kilometers, was found on the surface of the earth. The resulting South African history developed very differently due to this single highly uncertain but very impactful event.

Regent University - Meteorite impactThis meteorite impact was a long time ago, but as we prepared for the mountain bike ride, we had to start thinking of the future: which route should we ride amongst all the possible routes? Before we set off, we had a good look at the overall landscape surrounding us. On the satellite photographs of the circular meteorite crater, we found a little hill close by in the fairly flat valley. This hill was composed of rock that had melted due to the intense heat of the impact explosion. These rocks had been mined in an old quarry because of the beautiful patterns that the fluid rock made amidst many other rock fragments. By first seeing the overall system, we were able to plan out our route, get a rough idea of where to travel, and anticipate some of the challenges along the way. We then knew how to get to the little hill.

As we started cycling in the cool morning breeze, the shortest route would have been to head straight towards the little hill which we could see in the distance. The others in the group were too skeptical to follow unknown paths through the brush and grass. Instead, we followed the wide tar road that took us on a long loop to the other side of the hill. This was fine with everybody. Once we were closer, a small jeep track took us right into the quarry. By then the group had established sufficient trust that these paths were actually leading to the desired location. They became more willing to move along these smaller and less used paths.

Once we came to the top of the hill, an amazing change in perspective happened: all of us could see our starting point in the distance! Our group became ready to even take new routes. To get back home, we scouted out narrow footpaths that the cattle had taken through the bush. This was a lot more risky, because we might have had to backtrack if a path just stopped, or we could even have gotten lost when the location became unclear. Our group struggled to follow these fuzzy paths, because they were not completely clearly visible. We kept our vision focused on our goal, which kept us going. Only once we returned exactly to our starting point did everybody rejoice that we had found the best route home!

As you think about taking a team into the future with you, you might consider these questions:

Regent University - Mountain biking1. While you are thinking ahead, how can you help others to see the overall picture?
2. How can you prepare people to “see” where they will be going, even when paths are unclear?
3. In which way can you help your team to build trust in the route that you are guiding them?
4. What will help you obtain consensus for moving ahead to reach the goal?
5. How can you prepare each team member for the rough challenges they will encounter en route?
6. How can the team remain motivated and enthusiastic along the journey?
7. Which unexplored paths would you want to leave aside for the sake of staying with the team?
8. How can your team celebrate once you have reached the desired goal?

Future thinking becomes useful when the insights about potential developments from past events are used in the present. Well, until the next meteorite hits, we hopefully will be able to plan and implement a few more exciting mountain biking trips with our teams riding into their future!

11 Jun 2012 RudolfKabutz

A Thorn in the Unicycle Tire

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Regent University adult college educationMy son had been riding his unicycle amongst the bush of a nature reserve. When back home, he complained that the wheel made a strange sound when it was at a certain position while he was riding. Once he investigated, he found a little thorn stuck in the tire that made a sound on the ground each time the wheel turned. So he asked me to help him fix the tire. We expected the repair to be easy: since we had inserted slime into the tubes to close little holes, it was just a matter of taking the tire off the rim, removing the thorn, and giving the wheel a spin so the sealant liquid could fill the hole. All seemed fine – the hole was closed.

Then we started pumping the wheel. The pressure increased until the tire felt hard. Suddenly we heard a soft whistling sound coming out of the hole in the tire. This is impossible, we thought, because the hole was sealed by the slime! So we opened up the wheel again, but the hole in the tube itself was really closed. We re-assembled the wheel once more and started pumping, but again the air whistled out through the tire. We then went one step further by pumping with a compressor, but still the air blew out of the tire.

We analyzed the wheel as a whole and realized that if the tire fitted very tightly against the rim, another hole in a different position could cause air between the tube and the tire, and the air could finally get out through the hole that the thorn had made in the tire. We had no option but to remove the tire and tube once more. This time we took the whole tube out the tire. What a surprise to us, when we found a 5mm gash in the tube on the opposite side of the wheel from the hole caused by the thorn. The liquid sealant would never be able to seal such a large rupture!

During my studies of systems thinking at Regent University, I had learnt that systems function together as a whole, and that the causes of certain effects seen in a system are often not obvious. In the problem my son and I were trying to solve in the simple system of a unicycle wheel, the evidence of the problem appeared on a completely different side of the system to where the actual problem was! What a practical lesson to my son, where he learnt that trying to fix a problem only where it appears may not solve the real problem. Systems thinking theory helped us to see the challenge of the unicycle wheel from a wider perspective.