Writing to Right Yourself

For those who blog you are probably familiar with what happens when you start writing about something you believe strongly in or a practice you’re undertaking and find that as you write, you no longer believe it. It’s disheartening and yet it’s magical.

I have 19 blog posts that have not and will not be published. But I don’t delete them. They serve as a reminder of a hidden benefit of blogging. It’s only as you write that you can begin to see flaws in your thinking; you see holes in your logic. It’s at this point that you realize you are writing a lie and if you click publish you are lying to others and worse, lying to yourself. So publishing never happens. But that’s OK because you are better for having begun.

A most commonly touted benefit of enterprise social technology is that if people share inaccurate info it can be seen and corrected – ¬†and this is a good thing. But writing and not releasing is equally powerful and only comes through the transparency that social tech enables. If we, the potential sharer, recognize our flaws before revealing them and because we were to reveal them, we improve. It’s an act of reflection and something completely unseen/immeasurable to the organization but it should be encouraged by the organization – Writing as an act to right yourself; it’s an exercise in self-development which is always good for business.

Conversation Brings Change, Naturally

I’ve been thinking about Media Naturalness theory for some time. Well, more often it just pops up because it’s not like I’ve invested all than much effort into it. In short, if you’re not familiar, Media Naturalness Theory is the idea that human beings were built for face-to-face communication over thousands of years of evolution. Our gestures, voice inflection, eye movement, body language all contribute to giving and receiving information. Therefore anything that shifts away from this “medium” impacts our ability to effectively communicate. There was a lot of study around this with the introduction of email. To learn more I found this Wikipedia article a pretty good place to start.

Being more into the media rich New Social Learning (i.e. learning through social technology), I haven’t put much stock into Media Naturalness theory but I had a bit of an epiphany at a recent meet-up here in Syracuse. I’m a member of a local Bloggers Facebook group. We comment and exchange posts as well as ask for advice, etc. I was wanting to meet some of these fine people in person and pick their brains about blogging and why they do it, how they do it, tools, approaches, etc. I think I’m somewhat of an outlier in this space as I don’t blog for money, I do it for myself (although if the occasional speaking gig arises I usually don’t say no), my topic is a bit fringe, and I’m a bit of a purist in that I focus exclusively on my writing/reflecting and do nothing in regard to researching tags, SEO and monetization.

Meeting virtual friends face to face is always pleasant and since we didn’t engage much in long discussions in our Facebook group the opportunity was there to sit, have a beer and just hear each others voices if nothing else. Upon my arrival I moseyed up to a trio and introduced myself. After exchanging pleasantries I was asked by one, Joe I believe, “So what is it you write about exactly?” Without missing a beat I rattled off something like “I write about organizational social. How increasing transparency and openness can improve performance. You know, how social tools can be used inside an organization for sharing and collaboration.”  As I sputtered out my final words I realized, but didn’t feel compelled to add it in, that I said nothing about learning. I hadn’t even whispered the term that has defined my career for over 20 years now. No ID. No elearning. No L&D. No training. Nothing.

Blogging has a unique pressure that really only strikes you when you hit “publish.” Even as comments to your posts come in, you can pause almost indefinitely and ponder a reply. But in the heat of a face-to-face conversation, with real human eyes cast upon you and ears finely tuned, your response is unrehearsed, visceral and probably the most honest you can give. I write so much on my interest, beliefs, observations, efforts, etc that I really haven’t even given conscious thought to the transformation I have been undertaking. In reflecting on this moment over the past week I started looking back at my conversations online, my blog posts over the past few months and years and the pattern was obvious; I have slowly shifted away from being L&D-centric and have been seeing the whole organization’s role in impacting individual performance. Learning is a part of the work not apart from it. And thus learning is mostly indistinguishable from the other activities that make up the work we do, it is an unconscious underpinning. No longer does learning, in the formal sense, dominate my thinking and practice any more than communication, human interaction, culture, leadership, and trust.

Change happens one conversation at a time or in this case, change is made obvious through conversation. And why not – we’ve been learning about others and ourselves this way for thousands of years.

Social Inception

Have you seen the movie Inception? It’s a fantastic sci-fi film where people infiltrate other people’s subconscious while they sleep and remove information or, in the case of the title, plant an idea. When the person awakens, they think the idea is their own.

Now I do believe that the same idea can spring up independently from different people in different locations at the same time. Historically speaking, you can see that Pyramids of various sizes and constructs appeared all over the globe by different civilizations in or around the same time where the people had no contact with each other.  However time and space are no barriers anymore. As more and people find their voice online, begin sharing their stories, experiences, and ideas, an unintentional form of “Social Inception” can occur. When we engage in social networks we accumulate many ideas from many sources. Some can be fleeting, like those seen briefly in a Tweet. Others are deeper like those in articles, blog posts or videos and of course conversations. For me, I recently wrote about change happening one conversation at a time. The gist of my post was that we can just cut through all the fat about social media technology barriers, it’s really as simple as helping people ask their internal questions out loud to those who are “connected” – Things like “where do you find the time?” “how did you start?” “How has it helped you?”, etc. Good idea? Maybe. Was this my idea? I’m not so sure now. 
When I wrote it I was like, this is an interesting thought, I wonder what others would think? Flash forward to today. I’m scanning some favored Tweets looking for something in particular and I see:
It got me to thinking so I re-read the article. I was left with two thoughts. 1. This is brilliant and 2. Did I steal this concept?! 
Well, no, not consciously, not completely, and not with any intention to do so. I have always been very careful to sing the praises of the trailblazers (not sure that’s a good term but I’m not a fan of the word Thought Leader). I vigorously read and promote the works of Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Charles Jennings and many others in the learning/social learning space… including Euan Semple.  But here, over 115 days ago, he wrote an article of a very similar title to mine. Did I read this 115 days ago, process it internally, experience a triggering event and spew out my own interpretation as something really original? Did Euan plant more than a seed in my mind? Is this more common than I think?

Today information comes at us so fast, influencing our thoughts and practices in positive ways. We consume so quickly that even when we have trusted networks through which we have information curated the lines can blur between what is ours and what is others. Our thought, other’s thoughts, our practices, experiences and reflections all blending together and in the end attribution is practically impossible as you walk away thinking… “This is an interesting thought, I wonder what others would think?”  

Well, then this is all I can offer – my mea culpa moment. For starters go read Euan’s article here, as mine pales in comparison. If you can only read one, go to his.  Going forward, in addition to continuing to recognize the ideas of others in my posts and presentations, I’ll revisit my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) strategy and tools, and I’ll continue to add to my blog roll as it serves as a great list of those who’s work I find inspiring. These people continue to influence my thoughts and practices and I guess, as long as I keep them upfront and getting the attention they deserve, maybe my unintentional imitation is a sincere form of flattery. 
What ideas do you have to create a buffer against unintentional Social Inception?

Better for Having Begun

An amazing transformation can happen in the process of writing a blog post. It happens in those initial frustrating moments when you feel your ideas are beginning to be internally challenged, altered and even slipping away.  Each tap of the keyboard is followed by a micro pause of self-doubt on beliefs you once held firm. It’s here, writing in public, that your mind can betray you; you are writer, readers, reviewer, critic. You can’t complete the post, not because others will criticize it but because you have and you no longer align yourself to the original premise. 


Your fingers lift from the keys and you exhale an audible sigh as energy now shifts back to your thoughts, to your network, to your experiences, to your research to clarify and reflect. Defeated? Yes, if your goal was completion. Or no, if your goal is continuous growth – because you really are better for having begun this process.

The Power of Pause

Typically when I read a story to my kids I don’t respect punctuation all that much. This is probably because I approach reading to them as I approach reading to myself; consuming a lot of content in a short time. Now I must say I am mindful of correct tone with those potent punctuations; exclamation points and question marks,  and I can diversify my voice to make characters spring to life like no other but comma’s, periods, semicolons, etc are hardly a bump in the road.

In the end we cuddle and read the story. The kids are happy, I’m happy… but I began to wonder if they really got it.

During this time of year the kids and I have been reading from a book of 24 Christmas stories . These stories are somewhat abstract as they aim to teach the kids about God through the story of a small bear working his way to Bethlehem. Each short story, of no more than a single page, invites much for the mind’s eye. They are filled with emotion and vivid scenery. Some of the tales even have titles like “The Wolves”, “The Giant.” and “The Thief” which awaken my children’s imagination.

Up until now, upon finishing a story, I’d ask my kids to tell me what happened and what it was about and then later to share it with their mother. Frankly they get about 30% of the story right and none of the meaning. Characters, plot, etc…all lost. So no, they didn’t get it.

I then decided to read it differently. I felt maybe the issue was my pace, that too much was coming at them at once. I really focused on the pause that periods and comma’s enable. Maybe I paused a bit too long at times as my kids would look at me oddly and I have to admit it was an uncomfortable period of silence.

It probably sounded something like this:

Benjamin had finally reached the edge of the forest. …………………………………………  The snow began to fall silently around the weary traveler as…

Something fascinating happened though – they remembered…and they remembered much longer. Furthermore the were getting the meaning, and excitedly revealed it in their own words! They asked additional questions and made connections to other ideas.

It appears that each comma or period was a pause and gave my kids micro moments to reflect on all the information they were presented. The story was somewhat chunked and they now could process every rich nugget of the unfolding plot before adding new content. Maybe they immersed themselves in the scene more; empathized with the character, sense the cold snow, heard the wind, felt the fear and then they were ready to take on more. Their eyes widened, they grew silent, and hung on my every word. They were engaged.

This experience made me wonder about the “micro moments” our employees are afforded in the learning opportunities we create in formal interventions and those we help enable within their work? In formal learning, what if more time were built into each so that reflection was an equal part along with content delivery and practice? How much opportunity do we grant for conversation and I don’t mean Q&A? Are our experiences created with reflection in mind?

What about the benefits of pauses during work? What if we encouraged blogging? What if each employee took time to better reflect upon their processes, narrated their efforts, progress and invited conversation?

Wouldn’t they too share more, question, make connections, be more engaged?