It seems like a non-question but this has been on my mind as I head into the third call for submissions of the Journal of the Social Age. This question has therefore prompted a reflective, working out loud piece that ends with an invitation to let me know your thoughts.
Is a Journal a random collection of articles? When is a journal a Journal?
I have taken the idea of a Journal and shaped it according to what I thought was right. I wanted to make it an opportunity to work together, collaborate and depend on others when writing and creating for public consumption, a daunting idea for some. I also wanted it to be a reflection of thoughts and experience around this topic, the Social Age. A place to collect and distribute knowledge about the ‘Social Age’ (Yes, Julian’s idea). It’s still small and experimental, I am enjoying playing with and examining how to construct opportunities for people and ideas to emerge (see another idea: Social Leadership).
I’m all about the practical side, how things can be done and what we can learn along the way. When I start to work with ideas, given my background as an instructional designer, self taught, I do a lot of research, I read, I contextualise, I drill down and try to connect the dots based on other ideas and concepts that live in my pre-consciousness (not sub-conscious, but just below the surface, ready to draw on when needed). I identify commonalities, that’s how I learn, how I teach myself.
So, to theme or not? I would like it to be on me, on my vision for the Journal, on my personality! However, if I am carrying this experiment out, I have to open it up.
I like themes, and I like to analyse and see themes emerge, interpret and share them back to the community for validation. In my opinion, this is one way to contribute knowledge to a community of practice (see Wenger, mapping knowledge).
It boils down to what we want from this Journal. I have my own ideas and agenda which is multifaceted, however others find different value from it. For example, in one conversation with Kate Ensor who volunteered for the Selection Committee, she expressed how she would use the Journal to share the ideas and practices of working and living in social spaces with colleagues who are new to these concepts.
Perhaps identifying a common thread that has emerged from a set of written pieces belongs in an editorial, being a more subjective point of view on the pieces themselves.
Based on experiences in the first and second edition, the type of submissions we receive vary, from the highly reasearched in the first edition to more relaxed stories of experience in the second edition. Looking forward and planning the third Call for Submissions in May, I’m interested in hearing from you:
Let me know your thoughts and opinions!
On day two of unpremeditated reblogging, this post came across my feed. As an unashamed project doer, I can’t help but respond! I don’t think projects are the problem, in an of themselves. My best work is done when I’m up against a deadline, when I know there is a finish line and must pull out all the stops to get there. There’s certainly an ideal timeline, too tight and there isn’t room for creativity or, as importantly, collaboration and co-creation. As a project doer, whether my own or for a client, the quality of what we are able to achieve is a direct result of the quality of person we are able to convince to collaborate with us. Yes, convince, not compel. The first litmus test of any project is engagement. It sometimes takes perseverance, a small group of die hard ‘believers’ to jump the first few hurdles. But when I feel overrun with interest and enthusiasm, I know that what I am doing is a success. Not all projects end up the same way, but with each, I am able to expand my network, both inside and outside the organization I am with, learning as I go who can contribute what, and who I like to work with. The organization that is able to attract people who are enthusiastically interested in working together because of shared values and passions is the one who will be able to withstand and thrive in our changing environment because of the connections that we create between us. And my way of doing this is through projects. I need that light at the end of the tunnel, that goal I achieve, review and iterate, learning with each pass and project.
Thanks for inspiring this 5am rant Julian!
To adapt our organisations to thrive in the Social Age will require a holistic pattern of adaptation: you cannot fix an ecosystem challenge with a single touch point. Reflecting on this got me thinking about projects, and more specifically whether projects are the enemy of change. Many aspects of organisational life are geared up around the definition of, procurement of, delivery of, and endpoint, of projects. And yet the real world, and the social systems that exist within it, have no start and end point. It’s possible that the unit of organisation we use most widely, the project, is itself both part of the resistance to change and part of the system we are trying to change.
I don’t wish to over dramatise, but there’s certainly something about the way that projects are delivered in isolation, whilst change requires an alignment of energy and holistic pattern of adaptation, or at…
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Thanks for this informational post Kate! (It reminds me to follow you, not sure why I haven’t already ;D ) I appreciate that you’re finding value in the cards, hearing the stories of how they are being used is useful to me, not only to amplify and tell others in order to inspire them, but also to appreciate how we all build this social leadership ecosystem together, based on our individual needs and experiences.
I have an agile feeling. I don’t know if we’re doing this right, but what we’re doing feels right. Is this agile?
Work on the Social Leadership in Practice continues with Kate. After writing the user stories, we chose one that seemed to be the path of least resistance and decided on a way to address it. We decided that each of us would interview two out of four people we agreed were identifiable to us, based on reputation and character, as social leaders. After the interviews, today, we shared our initial thoughts, the ‘headlines’ of our analysis, to see if there was any common ground in each interview. Then we agreed on four themes to focus on, and write together based on examples from the interviews. This is where we’re at.
As a new team, we are building a kind of rhythm and some habits that we will be able to use to drive other ideas.
Doing the interviews did two things: gave more information about the topic and also inspired us to move forward with another mini project.
Working quickly together, to produce something in order to learn what value it has in our context, among our communities. It’s difficult to know what will gain traction before testing the waters.
Is this agile?
We are also learning about how we like to work. Interviews very fun to do, really long to analyse. Factoring in extra thinking time is important for the next one.
Our next experiment is from something that came out of the interviews: stories about how people got started. Each of our interviewees shared their beginning story. So we will see if we can get permission to share it or do a rudimentary recording and share that. It still responds to the same user story though. Is that agile?
It is a good way to understand more about social leadership in practice. Yet, it has less to do with the practice than with how the practice evolves.
For example, I’m currently running the beta testing the Social Leadership cards, and some feedback came in today. One person told a story about how she was using them,
The idea of a blog is something that makes me a bit nervous to be honest. I do value many blogs I’ve read. I’ve started looking at the approaches of others who share; I need to find my own style. Time to grab it and do something with it.
I added the bold. This was a pretty strong theme we identified. The beginning, the ‘leap’, the courage to start. And to continue. These are things I think about too. And I found it interesting to hear how others are doing it. So that’s the basis for sharing as well. I think it fulfills the user story better than the one we are doing now, but builds off of this one. That idea could not have existed without the learning we did, and continue!
I’m appreciating the experimental quality of the way we are working. We don’t know the answers, but every time we deliver something to test, we get a deeper understanding. Not just of the topic, but of how we work together and what form the eventual product will take.
I made my new year’s resolution a couple of months ago and I couldn’t wait until the new year to start (you’ll understand why when I tell you what it is).
My resolution is to follow through. Two words that, in my world, are a huge challenge. Ideas are cheap for me, I can trade them like currency. They are never lacking in any situation, any conversation. In fact, I actually have to work hard to rein them in. A friend once told me to stop spouting my ideas at her when she was catching me up and telling me about some challenges she was facing at the time. “What?!” I asked, “what do you mean?”
“Ya, I can’t just tell you how it’s going, you give me unsolicited solutions. I don’t need you to solve my problems”
Whoa. (We’re still friends!)
You know those moments when someone says something small, and it shines a light on your perception of yourself, and you realize that how you thought you were is not how others see you? Ya, that.
My resolution is to take an idea and follow it through. To the bitter end. Through the not fun valley of Making a Plan, through Checklist central and Process City. That’s how I thought of it. Trying to be methodical, and disciplined. Follow through is hard! Some people call it delivering, people write about how to do it. I’ve spent the past 12 months learning that discipline is not one of my strong points (See frequency of my blog posts). If I have to do something, it feels really hard to do alone. And reach the end feeling good. I don’t want to just feel good at the end though, I want to feel energised, ready to tackle the next thing. Part of a team, doing cool sh*t. To do that, I need people. Others get me energised & motivated, whether it’s exercise, or a new project.
My technique for making sure I work out? Sign up for a class of something. That way I’m accountable, I’m on the list, I have to go. I’m taking a similar approach with follow through: get other people involved. Suddenly, it’s not just me knowing I didn’t do that thing I said I was going to. Suddenly, if I don’t do that thing, it contributes to my reputation as a flake. I don’t want to be a flake!
I want to be a collaborator, a coworker, cocreator. I want to work with other people, foster community, be excited about what I’m doing. That’s what that means to me.
Hence, the resolution. It’s one thing to resolve though.
And this takes me to Agile. With a capital A.
Until I embarked on Agile (product development), the recipe for arriving at my goal was pretty straightforward and I had been doing things this way for awhile. As I’ve said before, solo consultant here, ready and able to be a one man show, pulling others along behind me, to create a whirlwind of discipline and action. I had an idea, found someone who could build it, and did it. But I found that the build was imperfect, there was usually something missing, or what I saw in my head didn’t translate into the product. I’m thinking of Storybox here. Classic example (not dead yet!)
Follow Through means a few different things to me. This resolution also represents a change in the way I want to work. Towards co-ownership. Towards a team approach, team buy-in. I don’t want projects to feel like a struggle anymore. I’m ok if I have to struggle, but with others, not against.
I wrote a post about Social Leadership in Practice, a project I am working on with Kate. Well, last week we started the project, in an Agile product development manner, with Sam kindly coaching us to get us started. First thing to do, user stories.
Now, I’m a person who completely supports the idea of Agile. The theory looks fantastic. People working togeher, testing, iterating, reviewing, getting feedback from a community. Wow. I’m in. I love it. Of course, acceptance in theory meant my guard was down when it came to reality. Writing user stories forced my mind in a direction I a) wasn’t aware that I would resist b) back to how I felt when I was forced to sit down at a desk and do math homework in school. In short, writing these made me feel like my head was in a vise.
I kept thinking: I already know what I want to do! I have a vision, I have a collaborator, I know exactly what I want. All the ingredients are already here. How can I make these user stories say something that leads me to be able to do what I want to do?
Remember I mentioned before, those moments where your perception of yourself is challenged? I had one of those. I started asking questions, challenging, resisting! I realized that I don’t really take users into account. I design for me. To try new approaches, new ways of doing things. Projects are an excuse to try out different ways of getting a message across.
I’m not saying I’m completely converted. However, the exercise started us (Kate and I) in a dialogic process, and towards a truly co-owned outcome. It gave us permission to try something out, do something fun that fulfills what we want to do, but also is ‘quick and dirty’ enough that we can put it out rapidly, and see what response we get. It also took us in a direction that I think can be broken down into many smaller, iterable bits, just from one story.
And we have something like 15. So we have fodder for awhile. But we’ll need to keep revising and writing user stories. Simplifying them.
I’m a nomad, I explore, I work remotely sometimes with people I have never met, on projects I don’t understand. Flexible is one of the words I use to describe myself. I definitely can go with the flow. But Agile is a different matter. Just starting this way of working exposed my inner iron. I definitely have a stubborn streak!
Trying new ways of working can be a chore. It required my open mind and a modicum of self awareness, self understanding, to be able to observe why I was reacting the way I was. That I was reacting. That I was resisting. And to allow myself to do that. I told myself “I only have to try it, that way I can say I did.” I said I could do it once or twice and see what happened. I only really understood what the potential was yesterday, after sitting, stewing with it, hating it for a week.
Sometimes, you just have to turn your brain off. Let things percolate in the back there, unseen, until you pick it back up again and something clicks.
I’ve come down to Hood River, OR for the weekend to work on an idea that has two objectives. 1) to be an example of social leadership in practice and 2) to provide a resource about social leadership for those who are interested in starting and are struggling with where to begin.
The term ‘social leadership’ is used to mean different things. In this instance, I use it to relate it to a book I have been tasked with “teaching”. In my opinion, this concept, as it is understood by Julian Stodd, cannot necessarily be taught. It can be tried, and tested, explored and reflected on, yes. However, I cannot tell you “how to do it”.
In fact, I make it my business, literally, not to tell anyone how to do ‘it’. It has to be incorporated into a personal change journey, it speaks to the base values that you hold as a human being active in the world. It is a suggestion, a framework that can be played with, experimented upon until the version that fits with you, with your wants, and desires, your needs, emerges.
This is a difficult way to approach anything. Especially now that social everything is everywhere. We get information from so many sources, we barely have time to think about it. To do anything with it. Yet more and more organizations are changing their approach to learning and development, seeing the potential of a decentralized, democratized learning system. Tapping into the workforce for stories of experience can build a highly collaborative and innovative culture. However, navigating the information, and sharing information out does not come naturally to everyone.
“People with agency”, those mythical beasts! Who have clear goals and objectives thrive in this seemingly chaotic environment. They do this naturally: taking and sorting, synthesizing the information newly available and running with it. For people like me however, it can sometimes be overwhelming. I’ve spent the past 14 months (since I met Julian and got my hands on his first edition) testing, trying, seeing what works for me. Why? I saw this take on social leadership as a way to help me channel my values and interests, creating in me a sense of agency that can be seen by others, in the trail I leave behind.
In collaboration with another curator, Kate Ensor and (hopefully, eventually!) other curators, the proposal is to create a social leadership in practice narrative, drawing from relevant and active members of this burgeoning community spcifically with a view to providing a resource for practitioners.
In an of itself, I want it to be a space people can refer to, hear stories about, share challenges of, social leadership. Really, it’s a space that will help us to make sense of the noise and connect the dots, by helping others do the same.
I’ve just finished going over the notes from today, which was a truly co-creative day! We came up with some basic understandings, a manifesto if you will, for this resource:
*The third one goes against the text in the definition I provided above (I noticed this as I pasted it in). This is a philosophical difference perhaps, in which I do not think that there is mastery here. Based on the first point, there will be different versions and iterations of success, depending on what your goals are. I don’t think one person can or should aim for all of everything. There is no state of social leadership nirvana.