Category Archives: Connection

The Gift Must Always Move

Buy a book Read a book Pass the book on

July 2014, a small parcel arrived in the post. I opened it and inside was a book and a lovely hand written letter from my friend Callum Saunders. Callum has kindly agreed to let me share with you the words he wrote.

My dear Doug

On June 17th, you tweeted a photo of a card: ‘Buy a book. Read a book. Pass the book on.’ with the accompanying message, ‘Don’t let your learning end up on the shelf’. This struck a chord. I love reading and learning new things, yet this knowledge invariably ends up on my shelf.

I enclose a book I enjoyed that looks at the role of office work vs making things with your hands – it’s a truly eye-opening look at how we work in today’s day and age.

If you don’t fancy reading it, feel free to pass it on, loan it, give it away. But thank you for encouraging people and making me think about how I store knowledge.

With very best wishes – Callum

If you don’t already know him, I hope that by now you can get a sense of what a kind, thoughtful guy Callum is.

The book he sent me is called The Case for Working With Your Hands and a while ago it came to the top of my reading pile. Having read and enjoyed the book I’ve now passed it on to Richard Martin.

I’m currently enjoying a book written by Amanda Palmer titled The Art of Asking. Laurie Ruettimann recommended it in a recent blog post, and if you, like me, sometimes struggle to ask for what you need, I’d encourage you to get hold of a copy*. In the book, Amanda Palmer writes about gifts as being things to exchange, things to pass on, sometimes literally, as in the above book related example, and sometimes things to pay forward.

There is a phrase in The Art of Asking which is currently resonating with me: ‘The gift must always move’. I love this idea. I frequently wrestle with the question ‘How much is enough?’ and realise that some of the hardest choices we make are around what to keep and what to pass on, and move on from. Yesterday I was invited to respond to this question: ‘What is profitable?’ I wrote the following answer to myself: ‘Giving stuff away’. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten that I have financial needs to meet and fun things I want to do which require the earning of, and exchange of cold, hard cash, and in addition I genuinely believe there is greater overall wealth created in passing stuff on, and in the exchange of gifts between us.

*If you would like my copy of The Art of Asking when I’m finished with it – get in touch. Ask and I will send it to you.

What Does Meaning Mean to You?

I was at Meaning 2014 in Brighton yesterday, along with around 299 other curious folk. This was my second time at the conference, I enjoyed my previous visit and had booked for this year immediately after the 2013 conference finished, something I’ve never done before. I couldn’t stay for the whole day this time, and at one point I’d been dithering over whether or not to attend. I’m glad I stopped dithering, here’s why.

On my way to the event I bumped into Andy Swann and his friend Ed. Turns out I’d been walking in completely the wrong direction so as we corrected my approach, we enjoyed a brief conversation on life, the universe and everything. On arrival – I went straight to the badge stand. Last week the conference organisers tweeted requests for badge slogans and I had responded with a couple of ideas…thanks for listening 🙂

Meaning Conference BadgesAs people milled around chatting and having coffee I was fortunate to share a few minutes with Neil Mullarkey. Among other things, Neil co-founded The Comedy Store Players so the art of improvisation is something he has lots of experience in. I was fortunate to experiment with improv with Joe Gerstandt and an enthusiastic crowd in Illinois recently, and I am keen to learn more.

A friend had recommended Neil to me so having the opportunity to meet and talk with him was lovely. A key element of improv is accepting the offer of someone’s words, and building on them, something referred to as ‘yes, and’. As we parted, I offered Neil my ‘I don’t have to be perfect’ badge from last year’s event, he kindly accepted. I then enjoyed a few brief conversations with friends, before Kev Wyke and I joined the throng filing into the theatre for the start.

Meaning Conference currently revolves around short ish talks – around 20-25 minutes a piece. A good format, as you are either left wanting more, or you know you’ve not got long to wait until something else comes along. After warm introductions from Tom Nixon, who came on stage to the most dramatic opening music I’ve ever heard, we were off. 

First up was Mark Stevenson who promised us ‘the future in 20 minutes’. He was fast and funny, and as well as humour and speed he told tales of DNA sequencing and how that is now being used experimentally for cancer reduction. Mark suggested that technology falls into three categories. The stuff that existed before you were born, sewers, textiles, cars – you take this stuff for granted. Then there’s the stuff that appears before you reach the age of 35. This stuff is exciting and useful and you get to grips with it. Lastly, there’s everything that appears affect you are 35, and all this stuff just serves to make you grumpy. He told of solar power becoming rapidly affordable – and the tension between green energy, the utility companies and government. He spoke of 3D printers printing 3D printers and much more besides. Through the lens of the classroom he showed us how little some things have changed, and argued that we are educating people to be fit for the past, not the future. This was a barnstorming opening session which for me, almost went too fast. I hung on – just.

Ben Dyson was up next, to talk about Positive Money. Positive Money is:

‘a movement for a money and banking system that works for society and not against it. We’re campaigning for the power to create money to be used in the public interest, in a democratic, transparent and accountable way, rather than by the same banks that caused the financial crisis.’

I’ve been following the campaign for a while now and whilst I am not in any way an economics expert, I do know a little about fairness and I think what Ben and his team are progressing is important for us all. Ben shared with us that economics as it is currently taught is underpinned by rational choices – and we all know we don’t always make those. Only 3% of all money is cash, the rest is simply electronic exchanges, it isn’t real. Banks create this money out of loans and they are incentivised to do so. Here are a few more of the startling stats that Ben shared.

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For the first time in 170 years Parliament is holding a debate about money creation. On Thursday 20th November a backbench debate hosted by Steve Baker (Con), Michael Meacher (Lab), Caroline Lucas (Green), Douglas Carswell (UKIP) and David Davis (Con) is going to take place. If you are based in the UK and are reading this, and you think a fairer, more transparent money system matters, please drop your MP a line and encourage them to take part in this debate.

We then heard from Stefania Druga. Stefania is the founder of HacKIDemia, an international organisation that supports learning by doing and playing. She was here to tell us a little about a fascinating project called AfriMakers. AfriMakers ‘enable makers in Africa to develop sustainable projects and use making to solve local challenges and create an exchange of best practices between locals.’ Here are a few lines Stefania spoke which resonated powerfully for me:

Afrimakers – necessity = creativity and improvisation
Making stuff – in Africa it’s a necessity
Connect through values – everything else works
15 stones in the room – Zen Buddhism you can’t see all 15 – they are there you can’t see it all so question stuff
Change = Time*(work/people) Equation – time is the key – give it to people.
Let’s play together – recognise difference don’t impose yourself on others
Our desire to help is not always helping

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I enjoyed good conversations in the breaks and over lunch, and then I had to depart, so I didn’t see the rest of the day unfold in real life. Looking at Twitter, it seemed to unfold in all manner of interesting ways. An enjoyable event – well done to everyone who helped make it happen.

One last thing for now – I am curious, what does meaning mean to you? I invited people to respond to this question and I added their thoughts and ideas to a rough sketch note. The note grew through my time at the conference and on the train home. Here’s where this cocreated thinking got to, and if you’d like to add something about what meaning means to you in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

What does meaning mean to you

PS – I bought my ticket for the 2015 event last night 😉

 

The Art and Soul of Work

I recently wrote about the fear of never feeling quite good enough, and of taking the plunge and pushing through that feeling. Yesterday I got an email telling me the video of my recent Workstock pecha kucha performance (which was what spurred me on to write that earlier post) is now ready. I thought I’d share it with you.

Delivering a pecha kucha is hard work, and despite going over this one many times beforehand, the live product is rough – and I think on this occasion the roughness, the rawness, adds something to the message. I hope you agree.

In case it helps – here are some of the notes I pulled together when ideas for the talk were forming:

Soul:

It’s about taking time to get to know one another better. Good work is not about people or work, it’s people and work. They’re inextricably linked. It’s as easy, and difficult as that.

Art:

We are all artists

We stop being artistic because we’re judged

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How do we get over this feeling? Draw for the bin – not for the Royal Academy. Relax – sketch yourself into existence.

Creativity is not binary – adjust the dials to suit the prevailing culture – play with it, tease it out – don’t try to force it.

Mixed feelings – there’s hardly ever a right or wrong answer, it’s usually right and wrong – discussing uncertainty and accepting it’s part of the mix is really important.

Good work is iterative – it’s rarely right first time. Show and share your iterations with people – get feedback, share your way to the finished product.

Be adaptable – like Henri Matisse was with his cutouts. What happens when we play with the running order – add things – remove things. What is on the critical path and what isn’t?

Most work is coercive, it is done to you. The best work is coactive and cocreative, it is done with, for and by you. It is totally human to want, need and expect that our views be taken into consideration and yet we defy these wants, needs and expectations at almost every step in our working lives. Never do anything about me, without me. We need to listen more with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.

Huge thanks to Neil Usher for coordinating Workstock and for giving me and others space to play. And thanks to Maggie, Nigel and everyone at Workplace Trends for letting us all loose at their event!