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A Written Reflection

September 30, 2011 3 comments

As a strong “ideator” who uses “connectedness” in all things and is an extreme extrovert, so much of how I process my thinking and move it forward happens in conversations with people.   It has been a very effective method for incubating, creating, and drawing important connections and meaning – all through the privilege of getting to know people better, engaging with them and further developing these relationships.

Like so many other great things in our lives, I’ve found a down-side to these activities.  As the type of person who likes to chase “the shiny new thing” I often find myself fragmented and frenzied.   My head starts swirling in thoughts and I’m physically jazzed-up from the interaction; often waking up with thoughts in the middle of the night.  I found myself just disappearing from these activities by escaping into my work and not moving any ideas forward as a way to refresh from the hype.  I was stuck in this cycle of rapid frenzied movement followed by stagnation and it felt unhealthy, unbalanced, and even ineffective.

I lacked balance.  Focus was missing  Solitary reflection should replace the stagnation in order to quiet the mind, process and understand, draw meaning, and be able to keep moving forward.

I was privileged to participate in a writing / journaling conference hosted by The People House and The Center for Journal Therapy recently.  I learned that journaling and solitary reflection would accomplish both things:  quiet the mind AND continue to move ideas and thinking forward.  I’ve been diligently applying these techniques and feel more balanced, have more insight, and am moving ideas and thinking forward more rapidly and with a calm that I haven’t had before.

The tagline for the conference was:  I write to know what my heart thinks.  It is so true!  I’m great at asking questions, but have lacked the discipline to pursue finding answers, including listening for those answers.  If you have never written as a technique to move your ideas forward, try it!

Reflective Writing Steps:

  1. Set aside 10-15 uninterrupted and quiet minutes to allow the free-flow of your thoughts.
  2. Pick a question (of yourself, of someone or something else, of God, or whomever).  See following examples.
  3. Read more…
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Focus on Learning: 5 Tactics to Fuel Your Mind

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As a grad school graduate, I’ve done a great deal of thinking about how to satiate my renewed appetite for learning and how to keep it alive going forward.  It was surprising how easily I had forgotten my own love for learning and never want to be in that position again.

Recent brain science reveals useful information about how we fuel creativity, innovation, and make go-forward changes in our lives by changing the way we think as well as the health benefits of keeping our minds active.  All are tied to fueling the mind and learning.  So the question to ask yourself is…

What are you doing today to fuel your mind and keep learning?

Following are five tactics to consider:

1. Read Different Things

Not just the usual books or reading material that you have always enjoyed, but stretch yourself to read unexpected topics and resources.  Subscribing to various blogs can be a great way to expand exposure to different fields and perspectives.  One thing I do is to always have a couple of different books going.  For example, I am currently reading about Abraham Lincoln’s rise to the presidency and how he built his unique cabinet (history, politics, leadership and team-building), A Passage to India (a classic historical fiction novel), a couple of books on complexity science, a book on how to be a successful “free agent” in the emerging world of work, a fun teen oriented fiction novel from a series that my daughter is also reading, and I just finished a book about the history of philosophy.

Read more…

The Intersection of Social Media, Organization Change, and Complexity Science

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An interesting intersection exists in organizations between social media technology and practices, knowledge management programs (including communities of practice), learning strategy, change leadership, and organizational philosophy about the use of each.

Social media can be leveraged internally in organizations in the form of collaboration systems, learning management systems, blog and tweet tools and social networking tools (whether they are exclusively behind the firewall or leverage public spaces such as FB, LI, and twitter).  Use of these tools in conjunction with a change initiative can also have reciprocal value in that it can increase utilization / adoption of the social tools and processes as well.

Change initiatives within organizations absolutely should consider the social fabric that currently exists, the technology currently available and used within an organization, and the informal leadership that have significant influence via the social network. These should be considered as part of the overall change plan and included explicitly in the form of communication plan tactics and tactics to help identified stakeholders and stakeholder groups to transition along the change curve.

Change management / leadership consultants (whether internal or external) should become familiar with social / organizational network analysis (SNA / ONA), types of web 2.0/3.0 and social technologies available and used within client organizations, and understand how the world of social networking is a critical element of organizational culture and change behavior.  Conversely, the use of social tools and processes in conjunction with a change initiative should be considered in conjunction with an overall organizational social media strategy.

The social world we now must understand and leverage does add a layer of complexity to our work. Understanding organizations as complex adaptive systems (via complexity science) can be an extremely helpful lens as we (consultants) analyze current state and develop change plans accordingly. In the end, it’s all about creating environments where positive change can emerge and social networks often (maybe even always, now) play a central role.

Wordle – Word Cloud

October 28, 2010 3 comments

My friend just introduced me to this powerful tool for creating word cloud images.  Following is the image of the text from my blog as of today:

Check it out, have fun, introduce your children to it, too!  http://www.wordle.net/

Categories: Idea Spread

What Good Ideas, Coffee Shops, Incubation, and GPS Have in Common

September 27, 2010 1 comment

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Steven Johnson, a writer who focuses on where science and technology intersect, is coming out with a book about where good ideas come from.  This past summer, he shared some of his findings during a TEDtalk in England.  Following are key points:

  • An idea is not a single thing (a eureka moment, lightbulb turns on, a stroke of genius, …)
    • We think it’s that expensive innovative one-of-a-kind idea
  • An idea is a network
    • Really it’s what we piece together from whatever spare parts we happen to have around
  • Most great ideas are formed over a long incubation period (The slow hunch)

Therefore, spaces that creative an environment that will foster good ideas / innovations must:

  • Be more like a coffeehouse
  • Invite people of diverse backgrounds to engage with each other
  • Be a bit chaotic
  • Bring people together (The Liquid Network)
  • Enable people’s hunches to interact with each other’s

As a result, GPS is born out of a casual conversation, incubated over time through interaction of people from diverse backgrounds to be amongst the first open platform technologies; which you have probably recently used to find a coffee shop near you.

On a personal note, I often describe myself as an “oral processor” and am recognized as an “ideator.”   Johnson’s findings resonate quite loudly for me as I also craft ideas over time through interaction with other people.  Maybe it’s something that came natural for me, but it certainly is a pattern that anyone can replicate.

Think about how this would impact the way you:

  • design an office space,
  • set-up an online community,
  • re-arrange a classroom environment,
  • interact with your family and friends in a completely different way,
  • expand the breadth of people you choose to interact with, and
  • leverage the interactions with all people in your life.

It’s worth your 18 minutes to watch the video &/or peruse the interactive transcript available on the TED website:

or if you prefer to watch illustrated presentations, check-out this 4 minute version:

Video+Story+Connection+Humor+Interesting = Viral Spread

June 14, 2010 1 comment

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This article from Fast Company highlights the viral spread of Dorito’s ads as part of a Super Bowl contest.   They are provocative and violent and the company doesn’t have to take responsibility, yet they benefit from the marketing.  One theme of  viral spread may happen when inhibitions are eliminated.  When something seems tasteless, immoral, or even wrong but you aren’t held accountable, are you (the general “you”) more likely to share it?

In this Dorito’s example, you can’t help but ask the question how YouTube and other technologies contribute to the general lowering of inhibition (comfort with exposure) and with the capacity to spread quickly.

There are some more provocative examples embedded in the article.  Here’s one that won a contest and ended up being shown during the  Super Bowl:

This article starts out by highlighting some pretty negative examples (of which, I’m sure, there are too many on YouTube) to count.  It also highlights a really great video that went viral related to a contest by Dorito’s in Canada:

It’s not just the “good” aspect that made it go viral.  There’s some other appeal here. This particular video is produced in the style of those produced by Lee and Sachi LeFever of Common Craft (check-out their cool videos explaining all sorts of social media such as Twitter).  It’s cool, quirky, different, a little funny, and VERY easy to follow.  This “Crazy Cheezy Dream” video is humanistic, yet fun and interesting to watch.  It tells a great story, but just enough detail that we can insert ourselves into that story (too much detail makes it hard to do that) – this is when we CONNECT with it!  Steve Denning talks about this phenomenon in his research and books about storytelling.  It seems so simple, yet makes all the difference in the world!  I would make the argument that this connection element exists in the more provocative examples from a fantasy perspective – something we wish could happen.

Today’s Lesson:  When videos tell a story that we can connect with, but are funny and interesting, too, spread happens.

Meaning of “Catalyst”

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What does “Catalyst” mean?

  1. A substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible (Merriam-Webster).
  2. An agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action (Merriam-Webster).
  3. Catalysts work by changing the activation energy for a reaction, i.e., the minimum energy needed for the reaction to occur. This is accomplished by providing a new mechanism or reaction path through which the reaction can proceed. When the new reaction path has a lower activation energy, the reaction rate is increased and the reaction is said to be catalyzed (reference.com).
  4. Any substance serving as the agent in catalysis (yourdictionary.com).
  5. A person or thing acting as the stimulus in bringing about or hastening a result (yourdictionary.com).

When does something or someone serve as a catalyst?

Based on these definitions, someone or something serves as a catalyst when they/it:

  • Provokes
  • Speeds up, or
  • Stimulates an action, reaction, or change.

How does this understanding impact the spread of ideas?

I just love the 3rd definition that talks about changing the activation energy, the minimum energy needed for the reaction to occur.  Think about any change you would like to see in your home, organization, or community … what do you think is the minimum energy needed for that change to occur?  Isn’t that a fabulous way to think to think about what “catalyst” is required to move an idea forward / to spread?

How does this impact the ability for people, organizations, and communities to change (aka have an impact)?

Some pre-thought about what will be required to insight action / change is required.  You can’t just “will” a change to occur.  You have to take action.  OK, so this isn’t a novel thought, but how much effort gets wasted without having thought about it in advance?  If we are better able to define the minimum energy required, then we can better target our efforts to spread ideas and be a catalyst for change.