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I have 19 blog posts that have not and will not be published.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.

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.