Monday, 4 November 2013

I've moved to Medium

A long overdue post here to mention that I've started sharing my musings on a new blogging platform called Medium.

Developed by the people who developed Blogger, which this blog uses, Medium is much easier to use and will drastically reduce the time I spend faffing about with pictures*, font that seems to do it's own thing, and just generally trying to make things here look as I want them to.

Also Medium has two features that I just adore. It enables a user to group posts in to collections, which is useful when writing about a variety of topics. And even better than that - you can select options which enable any other Medium users to add to one or more of your collections (or specific people that you invite). I love this social element, it make blogging feel a lot less lonely but also feels different from being co-authors or whatever in Wordpress. I'm not quite sure why.

Anyway, should you wish to check out my ramblings, I'm over here:

I'm also trying to keep a few Wordpress blogs going. At present these are:

#DigitalDudley - celebrating the ways people are using social media to great things and build community across Dudley borough
engaging together - this is the second time I've rebuilt a home online for sharing about empowering ways of working with communities! I always seem to let things lapse too much. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it. Anyway, this site feels fresh and ready to add a fair bit to, which I'm looking forward to doing.
East Coseley Visions - along with my brilliant colleague Becky Pickin I'm still involved with the Big Local programme in Coseley, so will keep this blog going for a while to come. Alongside which a local resident is starting a hyperlocal blog for Coseley. Yay!
Building Health Partnerships in Dudley - simply to share things we're up to in this programme, which runs until March 2014.

* A note on pictures. I rather rashly deleted a whole load of photos from somewhere - despite warnings about deletions from other places - the net result of which was that all my photos on this blog disappeared! I will try to learn from this experience. I simply don't understand the linky things that go on without me doing it manually. I'm slowly finding the pictures and replacing them, but some are not great quality as I'm copying them from web versions.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Subtle differences: how to identify creative collaborative activity

I’ve been learning a lot about what creative collaborative activity looks and feels like from Tessy Britton and Laura Billings. I’m coming to realise that until you experience it directly, it can be a tricky thing to differentiate from more traditional activity which might be in, for example, a charitable or consumer paradigm (see Tessy’s post on participatory paradigms). For any ornithologists reading this it’s a bit like trying to decide if you’re looking at a Willow Warbler or a Chiffchaff (without hearing any song).

A Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler

As Jason Lauritsen of Talent Anarchy said recently in a blog about a different kind of event he and Joe Gertstandt are offering:
“Different can be hard to understand in advance. That’s why people and organizations tend to treat new ideas so poorly.  And why we have such a hard time innovating. It can be hard to embrace the different.”
I’ve been reflecting on differences between two Pot Luck dinners held at the same venue in Brierley Hill, one last September (which I blogged about and Storifiedand one last week, both involving 16 people. On the face of it both probably looked pretty similar - 16 people milling around and then gathering around a large table to share food. However the dinner in October was collaborative, and the dinner last week, which was initiated with great intent but got unwittingly shifted to a more traditional meeting.

Pot Luck Dinner last September
The people:
  • In September it was a family-friendly activity, there were 10 adults and 6 children, three generations from one family came along. 
  • Last week it was an adult only space, and in addition, only adults actively involved in some kind of community group or activity - mostly people who run or lead groups or organisations. I doubt that anyone around the table felt that others were missing, after all we’re used to leaving loved ones and kids at home when going to community meetings.

The food:
  • In September the food arrived in tupperware and bowls. The vast majority of it had been cooked or prepared by the person who had bought it along, barring a couple of big bags of sharing crisps and the ice cream lollies.
  • Last week the table looked like supermarket shelves, with branded plastic containers full of supermarket food, and a collection of individual bags of crisps. The only exceptions was some lovely looking home made cake, and my (rather too thick) dal made in a slow cooker and bought along warm. Again, I’m sure those involved didn’t think anything amiss with what was on offer, as we are so used to having food provided at events - by caters and the like. We’re not accustomed to making and sharing.

The conversation:
  • In September we just got on with it. Had a good laugh, naturally and informally made introductions between people who hadn’t met before. There was music, play and fun.
  • Last week it felt quite stilted, given the dinner part was preceded by notification that there was paperwork to fill in for Community First, and then a round of introductions, as you'd have at a meeting.

Pot Luck Dinner last week - paperwork ahoy!
The outcomes:
  • In September we overheard lovely discussions between Joyce and others about her food and Caribbean cooking lessons, with intent expressed for people to connect over this at a later time. Having seen the hall, Joyce soon bought a large family party to INSIGHT for Carers, helping INSIGHT to generate income.
  • Last week I’m not sure if anything serendipitous occurred. I caught up with a couple of people, which was lovely. Some ‘required paperwork’ got filled in, which rather missed the point of bringing people together in a different way.

The washing up:
  • In September Tony and Donna did the lions share of the washing up, and had a brilliant laugh doing it. They wouldn’t even let others help they were having such fun!
  • Last week I had to chivvy people to clear the table, and a rather fed up Marc said they could leave the washing up. This exemplifies what happens when something is delivered by a few to the many (charitable or consumer paradigm) - tasks aren’t shared or enjoyed, they are left. People trot off home without a second thought to the dirty dishes.

Tony and Donna having fun with the washing up

So my first thoughts about identifying creative collaborative activity go something like this:
  • Are the only people present those involved in committees or local groups/organisations? This might indicate a lack of creative collaboration.
  • Are a small group of people doing everything? (They are probably from a committee or group.) This is an indication of community delivering to community. It’s where a handful of local people take on or imitate the role of service providers. A sign of operating in a charitable paradigm.
  • Is anything handmade and/or are lots of people sharing their skills, talents or passions? If so, things are looking like they might be creative and collaborative.
  • What has been paid for centrally? If the entertainment, food and whatever else is going on has been paid from from a group’s budget or a project budget, then creative collaboration is probably limited, or not present.

There isn’t to judge activity which is or isn’t creative and collaborative. I am simply sharing my process of beginning to understand what the differences are and how to know them.

Has anyone else experienced and contrasted differences? What would you use as identifiers?
Photo credits: Pot Luck pictures were taken by me, and the birds are from The Portland Portal 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Feeling safe to learn and share

Imagine you and a colleague have just started facilitating a pretty complex and challenging learning event. 

There are about 50 participants squeezed in to a not quite big enough room and you had to start late due to issues with the conferencing venue requiring people for lots of different events to queue on the street outside. Your participants are from a wide range of organisations: local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, NHS trusts, LINk and Healthwatch organisations, voluntary sector organisations and more. You have given a bit of an introduction which describes the landscape of complex systems they are all working in. A participant right in front of you at the nearest table is busy tapping away at a laptop keyboard as the group around the table start discussing the first scenario you have introduced. Someone quietly raises an issue about that participant sharing the discussion online. You panic as you realise you haven’t said anything in your introduction about maintaining a safe space for learning.

This is pretty much what I think happened for Laurie McMahon and Sarah Harvey from Loop2 today. 

You won’t be surprised to hear that I was the participant on the laptop! (At that point in the session I was working from the document we’d been emailed, highlighting key points in the scenario and making notes on what my fellow group members were raising as issues.)

Unfortunately for those concerned, the concern raised wasn’t dealt with well at the time. But I am very grateful to Laurie for taking the time to apologise and have a very genuine dialogue with me at the end of the day, so that is forgiven. 

On to the learning - and a request for your help and ideas...

Laurie and I discussed the fact that the Chatham House Rule doesn’t really work very well. So what guidelines or starting points for negotiating ground rules could a facilitator delivering this sort of learning suggest and send to participants in advance?

I often use the following in relation to confidentiality in event and workshop participant guidelines:
Sometimes when working in smaller groups and workshops people feel they want to draw on their own experience, but may not want people outside the group to know the details they are sharing. We can’t guarantee that people you are working with will keep what you say confidential, so you must take responsibility for what you choose to disclose.
That might not quite cut it at a learning event where the facilitator might want people from public sector organisations to feel free to say things that they wouldn’t in front of the press etc. So what can we do in face-to-face learning environments so that people feel free to speak their mind and offer opinions, without concern that what they say will be attributed to them (or their organisation) outside the room? 

And then we come to online sharing. At events I organise I include in the guidelines something like:
Social media 
Staff from Dudley CVS will be taking pictures, tweeting, and making videos during the event.  We’ll ask you when you arrive about whether you are happy for photographs to be taken of you and respect your feelings around that. If you do fancy starring on YouTube or a podcast, please tell us - we’d love to feature you!

Image credit: kdonovan_gaddy (flickr) 
Again, this doesn’t prove particularly helpful for a learning event where participants might want to share learning points and useful information or links. So what could a facilitator ask to ensure a common understanding and agreement in the room about what sorts of things might be shared in what ways? 

Assume in this instance that participants are people involve in a paid capacity, or perhaps volunteers at board level of organisations. And remember that the facilitator(s) and some of the participants may not be social media savvy, and perhaps have views of twitter etc. which they’ve formed from reading sensationalist stories in the press. 

I suspect that some of you reading this might want to suggest the short and simple social media policy:  “don’t be an idiot”. But I think that might not be so helpful to people who don’t know you so don't understand that you’re not an idiot and you’re not going to tweet them verbatim and attribute everything you say.

Has anyone had useful discussions where agreements have been made about individuals tweeting their own reflections, for example? Or not mentioning or making organisations or individuals visible through what is being shared (unless it’s something like: organisation x in somewhereville have an amazing document about y - here’s the link...)?

Your experiences, ideas and suggestions are warmly encouraged, and I’ll pass them on to Laurie too.

Also huge, huge thanks to my twitter followers who helped me get through today by offering support and good advice (when I dramatically said that I felt I’d been gagged by the thought police!): @John_at_HPL @notazengarden @Hypnofix @navcaecm @marciasandel @lil_ster @jumpylegs @paulineroche @JonnyZander @watfordgap and @Donna_M_Roberts. 

And thanks to folk who were tweeting from the event more quietly than me! Ooh, and a learning point for me, following a helpfully made comment by a fellow participant - the noise of my keyboard tapping is distracting to people when there is a speaker at an event. I quickly switched to my iPad - all good :) 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Anarchists in the Boardroom

Anarchists in the Boardroom is the title of a book which I think should get published, and is highly likely to get published if lots of people talk about it and about 200 or so chip in financial support in return for copies of the book (for which they get a thank you in the book) and/or some consultancy support from the author. (If you’re interested already, just jump straight to the campaign page, if you want my review of chapters 1 and 2, please do carry on.)

Liam, the author of the book is, like many people I ‘know’ nowadays, someone who I started listening to thanks to twitter. We did met fleetingly face to face at an event in London. It is predominantly through Liam’s blog that we and others have conversed, and reflected on big stuff in relation to organisations and people. A lot of what Liam has been doing through the blog is enabling an open process to writing a book, a book which is about organisations being More Like People, and about what we can learn and use from social media/new technologies and movements that they have supported.

Liam generously sent through the first two chapters of the book for me to blog about here, so here is an overview and my reactions.

Chapter 1: The inhumanity of it all

The chapter opens by highlighting the contrast between the way that Occupy modelled critical elements of the world which members of the movement wanted to see and the ways that social change organisations behave and describe change. Via Taylorism, Liam asks us to consider the impact of professionalism on behaviours displayed by those of us who work in voluntary/community organisations, social enterprises etc. He makes some interesting observations about the ways that civil servants change what they are doing when political leadership or policy changes, and do so seemingly without question.

We are then encouraged to consider ‘ways in which traditional management structures are likely to be at odds with underpinning principles of social media’. And Liam introduces anarchism - something which ‘places the highest faith in human potential, arguing that we do not need outside structures to create order.’ 

Finally we are introduced to three simple principles of the ‘more like people’ approach which organisations could take:
  • Humanity: Being ourselves, while growing and learning to build stronger relationships
  • Autonomy: Having the freedom to find out own best ways of doing things.
  • Complexity: Understanding that life is as emergent, non-linear and interdependent as we are. 

Chapter 2 The ‘more like people’ principles: humanity, autonomy, complexity

Liam gives a really accessible introduction to complexity and examples of how it comes in to play for social change organisations. He discusses humanity, and how we can better bring what we know and have learned in other parts of our lives in to our organisational lives. (This is really important to me, I have never failed to be astonished by how often voluntary members of community groups leave loads of their knowledge and skills from other parts of their lives at the door when they come along to a meeting - perhaps draughty community halls and boring agendas don’t help!) 

In the section on autonomy Liam has a great imaginary story which really gets through what organisations do wrong when it comes to using social media. He also talks about how ‘social media makes it much more obvious when we aren’t being ourselves’.

It's really interesting and well written, well worth pledging to buy!

Liam’s writing style is really conversational and engaging, and the examples and stories he uses feel so real and immediate. There are questions in key sections of each chapter which encourage the reader to reflect - this is a book that you are invited to interact with, as well as having the opportunity to jump online and talk about it.

I did smile at the fact that I am helping to get a book published which includes a sentence which begins: 
“Sadly, when leadership goes bat-shit-crazy, as history has demonstrated it often does ...”

I am so encouraged by the lengths which Liam has gone to in order to involve people in the thinking behind the book content, and his absolute commitment to creating a community of people who will grapple together with putting the principles of being More Like People in to practice, therefore putting the principles in to practice himself.

It has been really invigorating to see the pledges on the campaign page to get the book published quickly accumulate within the first two days of the campaign, it looks as though a few more supporters will mean I can read the remaining chapters!

So please do tweet about the book, share the campaign on Facebook, visit the campaign page, pledge to buy a copy or two, and if I haven’t convinced you, take a look at the short video of Liam talking about it below.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

'Wired to share' - but not educated to

A short reflection on sharing.

Yesterday I was part of a great session with colleagues from Dudley CVS, Dudley CCG, Dudley Public Health and Paul Webster and Eddie Ryce from Learning Pool. I took a few notes as we chatted, and spent a bit of time after the meeting sorting them in to something which would make sense to colleagues who couldn't make the session. I was about to email the notes when I thought it would make more sense to pop them in a shared Dropbox folder I'd created for our work on online learning. Then is occurred to me that is I was doing that, others could easily add in their own reflections and thoughts to the same set of notes - as the latest version would be accessible to all. So I have invited them to.

I don't have any great expectations that others will add to the notes, it's not the way we do things yet. People tend to take their own notes and keep them as their own. But I hope I'm nudging change by creating the opportunity and putting the idea there. Because I'd cc'd Paul in the email and mentioned the Dropbox folder, he has just asked me on twitter for the link. This is great, as I know Paul may well add to the notes - it is the way he does things! Maybe by seeing it happen this will be another nudge for my colleagues, taking them a step closer to working in this way.

Much as Rachel Botsman says we're 'wired to share', I have to think consciously about doing things this way. Because it wasn't encouraged when we were at school, and it isn't something which the organisations we work for do. It's working with people like Paul which reminds me that I can (and should) do things in a share-y way. When I'm surrounded by people for whom it isn't second nature I slip back in to the old ways of doing things. So I'm grateful that I have contact with people who actively use online tools to facilitate collaborative ways of doing things. It nudges me, which helps me to nudge others.

What helps you to remember to share and create with others? Is it second nature for some people?

Here's a lovely TED Talk about sharing, which makes much more sense than my waffling!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Oh So Quiet?

I’m greatly enjoying reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking 

I’m only half way through, and have been surprised to identify with a number of the feelings which she attributes to people who are more introverts than extroverts. Particularly because I am in my element when facilitating or training large-ish groups of people, and I don’t have any major fears about giving presentations in front of large groups of people - though I’m glad I don’t have to that very often.

However I do get stuck a lot in meetings of over about 6 people, and especially when my thinking feels quite different to theirs. This happened last Friday and a comment from someone involved in running the session has prompted me to reflect on what I did during the session.

The session was a workshop on 

Reconceptualising Representation: 
Exploring alternative spaces and modes of representation
A seminar that will open up conversations around the various ‘seen’ and ‘unseen’ representational form structures within society and governance. 
These discussions will inform critical research and insights into the effectiveness and impact of different representational forms and provide a better understanding into what representation is, its value and how do we best use it. Through discussions we will look at alternative modes and spaces of representation, such as applying the arts, and how this can be adapted and applied to enhance policy and governance practices.

Following introductions of everyone around the table, there were a couple of quite short presentations, including a couple of great videos, and then a few people involved in the research project and in arts projects were invited to talk about (really interesting and inspiring) pieces of work they had been involved in. After a couple of half attempts at opening the discussion more widely some questions were asked, but as is often the case with groups of over 5 or 6 people, those who had already contributed significantly continued to be the main contributors to the discussion. Lots of questions had been posed in the very first presentation, but with no-one helping the group to consider and respond to these in the subsequent discussions I felt that they were sadly wasted, in my view - a real shame as they were great questions.

Image credit: daevildevous
It didn’t appear to me as though anyone had taken on the role of facilitating - this would have involved them remaining impartial to the discussions and supporting participants to contribute. Also I don’t think consideration had been made to non-verbal contributions, a (probably unconscious) assumption was made that those involved would be happy and comfortable contributing verbally. Which is interesting of itself given that there were people from ‘the arts’ involved in delivering the session - I am left wondering why the session wasn’t planned in more creative way and why it didn’t invite participants to contribute in creative ways. To be fair, the session was billed as a seminar, and the emphasis is on discussions, so this is merely something I’m left pondering, not a criticism.
So for about 3 hours I listened and listened, tried to gauge when there might be opportunities in the discussion to add something which I had to contribute. I couldn’t quite feel them, so I listened some more. One of the group members said something to me when we reconvened after lunch along the lines of “you haven’t said much” and made reference to the fact that I’d “taken lots of notes”.

Well, that’s what it may have looked like while I was tapping away at my keypad...

Listening, and talking elsewhere

I’ve looked back at my ‘notes’ from the session, which consist of about 800 words:

  • Over a quarter were repetition of questions and useful information from the presentation slides, which I took note of because it didn’t look likely that we would be told where to refer to the presentation online, and nor did it look as though other visual aids would be used, such as the questions on flipchart to refer to later. (My memory isn't good enough to recall content of even a few slides.) 
  • Another quarter of what I ‘noted’ was some fundamental questions I had about the research and wanted to ask, my reflections on things people had said and talked about out, connections to things which I might talk about and share, and an action for myself 
  • Just under a third were notes from the discussion - quotes of things people said which struck me and felt useful to reflect on.
  • The remainder didn’t get written until the very end of the workshop, when we were asked to feedback two issues or opportunities arising from what we’d heard about/discussed. Thankfully for me I was near the end of the rotation, so had time to consider and prepare  what I wanted to contribute, and I typed it up to help me talk coherently, as by that point in the session I had said so little that I had lost confidence in my ability to contribute.
That’s just my ‘notes’. I no doubt gave the impression of writing much more, but what I was doing was talking online and finding relevant information to absorb in other ways than just listening.

Here’s what I also did during the main part of the workshop discussion:

Image credit: danielmoyle flickr
I sent tweets about the workshop, which involved
  • Searching for, reading and filtering 3 sites about Laurence Payot‘s project Coincidence, searching for his twitter handle and eventually finding a video from the project to share on twitter
  • Searching for and reading some of Black Country Touring’s website, finding their twitter handle and tweeting about them, including a page about The Corner Shop project
  • Considering which of my twitter followers might be interested in the discussion and mentioning 4 of them, inviting them to join in - and replying to tweets they sent (mostly about having fun in the snow!)
  • Tweeting thoughts I had during the discussion
  • Searching for and reading about the Love Stirchley project and tweeting a link about it, including a mention of someone I thought would like it (he did!) - and @GKBhambra retweeted it
  • Tweeting about what I heard said about setting up an Urban Resource Network in Stirchley and replying to a response I got about that on twitter
  • Taking a picture of an image I liked in the Love Stirchley leaflet we were given, sharing it on Instagram and twitter
  • Searching for, reading about and tweeting about Small Change
Oh, and I also
  • Put the Love Stirchley Festival in my calendar
  • Emailed myself links to the Coincidence project and the Small Change Forum to remind myself to read more
  • Looked up definitions of things like representation to help me think through what the research was about and what I might usefully contribute to discussions from some of my work 


I was also taking part in a few side discussions on twitter which had nothing to do with the workshop (with apologies to those running the workshop, but I didn’t feel 100% engaged in the conversation). They involved banter about yarn bombing, events cancelled due to the snow, and @weeklyblogclub.

Time to talk

I used the lunch break as my main opportunity to ask the questions I wanted to of some of the people in the workshop - such as questions about the research focus and whether Small Change uses Theory of Change. I reckon I probably learned more by having those discussions on a one-to-one basis than if I’d have asked them in the whole group discussion, as the respondents were free from the need to take in to consideration other people’s positions, or the need to give background to those who may be less familiar with the subject area.

Being quietly useful (I hope)

So although I hadn’t said much in the main discussion, I was working hard to share the interesting things I was hearing about with other people outside the room, and also finding non-verbal ways to take in information and answer some of the numerous questions I had without taking up time in the discussion by searching for and reading information online. Of course online sharing works really when people involved in delivering activities join in and make content available online before and after events. It's great that I could find links to the projects that we heard about, but information about the research itself (and the slides from the session) aren't available for open sharing yet (I've asked). If I hear more I'll shout about it on twitter!

So I've realised that you’ll rarely find me in any discussion in a group bigger than about 6 people without at least my phone in use - tweeting offers me a route to expression which isn’t often offered unless an activity is very well facilitated and involves access to lots of pens and paper for writing and drawing. Being online also means I can check things out in the moment, so enhances my learning and acquisition of knowledge during a discussion. 

I wonder if other people have these sorts of feelings and do these sorts of things? 

Below is a video of Bjork's song, It's Oh So Quiet - just because I like this song and writing this post made me think of it.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Bikes, Bread and Birmingham

On my way to drop of some posters at Sycamore Adventure today I saw this sign:

Having met John Lane and John Guest a number of times I was keen to pop in and see their bike workshop, I’d been promising to a couple of years ago before they moved to their current base.

mmm, oily workshop smell!
Walking in I was immediately engulfed in the lovely smell of oil and workshop type things, bringing back warm memories of my Grandad’s workshop in his garage and the basement of the engineering block at Warwick University where I learned to lathe. 

John Lane warmly welcomed me, swiftly made us a cup of coffee and settled down for a chat, having introduced me to three other volunteers that I hadn’t met before. I think City-Can-Cycle is wonderful for a number of reasons: they make what some people think is scrap in to fully working and safe bikes, they thoughtfully distribute bikes (free to people they know can’t afford it, and for donations to those who can), they do all this for nothing and they have lots of ideas for the future.

I particularly loved the whiteboard (the workshop is in an old school classroom). While I was chatting John Guest amended the number of visitors on the board from 936 to 937. I was the statistic being counted. What simple monitoring: number of bikes in, bikes out and visitors to the workshop. All recorded with a whiteboard marker and updated in real time!

John Guest proudly presenting the hi-tech monitoring!

John Lane
It was wonderful listening to John talk about the history of City-Can-Cycle, their future ideas and how they manage to wangle things like a workshop space for free. I asked John how he’d feel about contributing to a Community Lover’s Guide to Dudley which Melissa Guest and I are co-editing. I’m pleased that he was interested - I showed him the Community Lover’s Guide to Birmingham which I’ve read this week. 

The first story is written by Tom Baker from Loaf, and it really got me thinking. Tom's contribution is beautifully crafted and is both moving and hunger inducing! I was delighted to meet Tom on Tuesday, having invited myself along to the intimate launch of the Community Lover’s Guide to Birmingham. And it was fantastic to both meet Birgit and Marcia from ChangeKitchen (another story in the Guide) and to sample their delicious food. They are having a Penny-Pinching Pop-Up restaurant once a month, I’d fully recommend a visit if you’re nearby. 

I’ve archived tweets, blogs and a video from the launch event here (I’m so glad the Community Lovers are such a social bunch online). And a little history to the Community Lover’s Guide to the Universe series was posted by Tessy Britton here, following her brilliant publication, Hand Made. Karen Strunks posted this short video clip of Nick Booth at the launch on You Tube:

Having gone on from City-Can-Cycle today to meet with Julie Dillon from Lions Boxing Club and then popping in to see Camilla Phillips and volunteers at the Hope Centre, I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that there are so many wonderful, generous and caring people in every square mile in Dudley borough. Let’s hope that our Community Lover’s Guide to Dudley will help people who don’t know all these stories to learn more. It really has been enlightening to read the stories behind projects and activities in Birmingham which I thought I knew a fair bit about. It makes a real difference reading what the people involved say about what they do.

Friday, 4 January 2013

x-y coordination

It's that time of year when I try to get bit organised, and have grand plans and aspirations. Inspired by  the Weekly Blog Club celebrated in a recent great post by Dan Slee I'm going to try to write more here. And as part of the process of getting organised I'll start by finishing and publishing a number of half written posts lurking in various spaces across the chaotic system that serves as places I shove electronic files. (I'm in the process of bringing order to that chaos, and starting to understand the beauty of Evernote.) So here's a post I drafted in August having read an article called The Millenials by Tamara Erickson in the Summer 2012 RSA journal

It is about ways that members of Generation Y are transforming the way we work, with their technological proficiency, aptitude for teamwork and willingness to embrace multiple perspectives.

Having been born in 1975, I think I pretty much have to accept that I am one of Generation X, not one of the Millenials. However I was struck by how much I think I'm struggling with the same things that Tamara suggests the Millenials, or Generation Y, are changing. She suggested that: 

They are redrawing the line between what is institutional and what is personal, raising questions about which applications can be used during traditional work hours and what access to external sites will be allowed from internal machines. Over time, they will push us to remove the barriers; the boundaries will disappear. At some point, corporations will no longer provide employees with computers and mobile phones; their employees will simply plug in the ones that they already own.

Working at Brewsmiths coffee shop today
Thankfully I work in an organisation without daft restrictions to social networking sites and other web 2.0 platforms, so I can use them powerfully to benefit my work. However I still face the question 'when do you have time to do this?' from colleagues who don't use online to enhance offline, and haven't blurred that boundary between what is work and what is personal. 

I am already plugging in the devices I already own. I'm a year into having an iPad and wouldn't like to go to a meeting or event without it (you never know what you might want to look up). And increasingly my PC sits on my desk with the power off as I plug in my MacBook to work more quickly and easily than I can using cumbersome Windows programmes, and to produce more beautiful documents. I tried using Word once this week for 30 minutes. It crashed. I save my work to Dropbox, I forget to back up to the server (it feels archaic, and exclusive - how can my colleagues in the council or in other places and organisations access stuff I save on our server?). 

I think (hope) that I also have this characteristic of folk younger than me: Ys select and use technology to make their lives easier, both inside and outside the workplace. They manage technology – and its role in their lives – in ways that are helpful and productive, whereas for many adults, it can seem intrusive or anxiety-producing.
And I now share this way of working with Generation Y folk: Using new technology to support them, Ys have become highly accomplished at ‘time shifting’: doing things when it is most convenient, rather than when they are scheduled to occur. As a result, fixed work hours will eventually disappear, replaced by a focus on achieving a specified result by a particular date, regardless of how time is managed within that span. I can't wait for this day - hurry up Millenials!
Tamara got me thinking with this: Ys are expert at multitasking and are quick to make the most of the rapid-fire information that characterises today’s world. They also tend to be good at coordinating, as opposed to planning or scheduling. They will bring this practice to the workplace and, for a number of activities, it will prove more efficient and agile.
I'm definitely don't rely on or stick rigidly to schedules or plans, rather I use them loosely to give some structure, which enables others to have sense of a what and a rough when. And then as new learning emerges, and context and focus changes my rough plans evolve. I think I'd rather have co-ordinating as a strength if it's OK to have that and be less good at planning. And if these things are the case then - brilliant:

Ys perform tasks collaboratively, sharing information openly and solving problems through communal wisdom. Bringing ideas together is an essential component of the innovation required for today’s competitive environment, and Ys tend to do it well.
... Ys tend to play by network rules. As the cost of communication decreases, businesses are becoming part of a complex network. The rule of network economics is that open systems – those that allow others to play – are the ones that win. Ys will encourage us to develop strategies based on the principle of allowing all participants to benefit from the transaction.
Tamara states that Ys are heavily dependent on peer networks to identify the best, most trusted sources of information. I think I'm in this place now, the people I follow on twitter are amazing filters for me.
And I hope that I can be part of a group of people who know how to build their own reputations as both knowledgeable sources and insightful reviewers. I think there are a lot of people out there who are a bit older who have pioneered some of the changes described in the RSA article, I wonder if they too feel impatient and want these new, younger, thinkers to start to occupy more spaces so that traditional ways of working really shift. In the meantime, I might just try to turn 30 again!

Image credit: by Merlin2525 from Open Clip Art Library
This post is written with a huge amount of appreciation to the many brilliant people (perhaps mostly Generation Xers) who have encouraged, inspired and supported me to learn how work in these different ways over the last three years. They include Sophie Ballinger, Toby Blume, Nick BoothDavid Wilcox, Paul WebsterSal Hampson, Dan SleeAndy Mabbett and John Popham.