Tag Archives: meaning

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

IMG_3118

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 😉

 

Do You Have A Best Friend At Work?

Hand

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. – Walter Winchell

I’m heading to the Meaning Conference in Brighton this morning. I can only stay for a few hours and the two main reasons I’m going are: the anticipation of being provoked and challenged, and to catch up with friends.

Do you have a best friend at work? So asks question number 10 of the famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) Gallup 12. Gallup go so far as to stay that when it comes to ’employee engagement’ their questions are the only questions you need. Seeing as their question set doesn’t include ‘How much do you love cake?’, I don’t agree with their assertion, but I do like question number 10.

I know people who like to snigger at this notion of friendship at work, and I also know from my own experience that the people I consider friends, are the ones who I enjoy spending time with, and who I can be of use to, at least some of the time. I know from the work I do that people who can develop a sense of friendship, and of getting to know one another better, do better work together. Yet somehow the notion of friendship at work is something that we often don’t readily compute. I can relate to that, and often when I’m struggling to apply something which feels unfamiliar to its surroundings, I first try and think of it in a more ‘natural’ state.

I recently joined a new cycling club, and the club gets a few requests to respond to the media about our interests in the sport. Over the weekend I was asked to consider and briefly write about the benefits of being a member of a cycling club for a feature on a sports website. Here’s the essence of what I submitted:

The people I rode with on Saturday think a good cycling club should be an encouraging place to be, and it should be a nurturing place to be. For example – when we are out for a ride, we regroup often, to wait for the slowest group member, we don’t leave people behind.

Variety is important, so we try and encourage different people to lead rides to different places. We have a few members in our club with an excellent knowledge of great places to ride, so we perhaps are a little spoiled for choice, but we think there’s nothing more boring than cycling to and from the same place every week – so mix it up.

We enjoy a lot of laughs when we’re out together – our sense of humour isn’t for everyone but we think spending time together should be good fun, so don’t take yourselves too seriously.

These brief thoughts – by themselves they aren’t the magic ingredients for great work. Unlike Gallup I don’t profess to have found the answer, or even twelve answers for that matter – and if there is such a thing as culture at work, I think it would be helpful if it were nurturing, varied and fun – among other things. How about you?

photo credit : Jlhopgood

This Little Thing Inside

No Fear No Career Gaping Void

The best business people, artists, etc., live in that uncomfortable space of never feeling quite good enough.

They know that the biggest rewards lie in the things that terrify us.

Everyone’s afraid. Not everyone lets it stop them.

The above picture and words appear courtesy of the lovely people at gapingvoid. Thanks for the permission to reproduce them here.

One Day At A Conference…

I spent a day last week in some lovely company at Workplace Trends 2014. In the middle of the conference – the first ever Workstock popped up. Workstock 2014 was a series of pecha kucha stories – each only just over 6 minutes long, bound together by a series of even shorter tales, written by someone thousands of miles from the event, who had never met any of the speakers. Confused? I don’t blame you – so maybe hop over to Neil Usher’s blog or Richard Byatt’s and get a feel for what when on at the event. 

Creativity Constrained

I’m a fan of the pecha kucha format – 20 slides, each on the screen for 20 seconds – 6 minutes and 40 seconds to tell your story. Constrained by the timescale, your creativity is driven to the fore. The format doesn’t appreciate umming and aahing, you need to be on your game, and you have to be prepared. PK is just not a format that tolerates winging it. And it’s hell on your nerves.

Nearly my turn. I stood at the side of the stage, nervously waiting as my short story was read out loud. Words I’d not heard before now – but somehow strangely familiar. Truthfully I struggled to take them all in as my heart pumped, blood thumped, nerves jumped. It’s only natural to be a little scared. This little thing inside.

I was nervous for three reasons. One – the PK players that went before me were excellent. Despite the constraining format everyone had breathed their own life into their tale. Two – I could sense that everyone in this group of 11 storytellers was on edge, I think we were subconsciously fuelling each other. Three – I was planning to do something for the first time – a PK mix of slides, live music and live drawing. Why make life difficult when you can make it even harder?

Feel The Fear – And Do It Anyway

Time to go. I can’t quite recall what happened next – I just fell into the performance and blended a rehearsed sequence of thoughts with adrenaline, and a wonderful sense of support from the people in the room.

Pecha Kucha Clash City Rockers

photo c/o Rose Haslem

I rattled, buzzed and hummed, and I was done. My final words as I left the stage – ‘Thank f*ck that’s over’. This little thing inside – subsided again. As I sat down – a lovely lady handed me a piece of paper:

Workstock Appraisal

This sheet of A4 instantly and forever became the best appraisal I’ve ever had. Timely, encouraging and to the point. Thank you. I enjoyed as much of the rest of Workstock as my gratefully slowing heart would allow me, and the day went on. We were all filmed so I look forward to reliving the whole thing again soon in a slightly more relaxed state.

Since Workstock I have been bowled over by the reaction to it, both as a complete performance,

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 06.41.34

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 06.40.33

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 06.39.38

and to my contribution.

Speak To My Soul

Currently I am struggling, at times I find it hard to process why my work, particularly the work I’ve done in recent months, has provoked such strong reactions in the people around me. I am both excited and scared by what is going on. This little thing inside.

Yin/Yang/Belief/Doubt/Nerves/Excitement.

A bit like how the hotel staff gently slide the express checkout envelope under your room door, its arrival barely detected, so I’ve gently snuck this little thing inside into a few recent conversations. And it turns out that most people I speak with about this feel similarly, to a lesser or greater extent.

Yin/Yang/Belief/Doubt/Nerves/Excitement

Does this make you or me me feel any better? I’m not sure – I suppose a doubt shared is a doubt halved. It certainly won’t make the little thing inside go away, which on reflection is a good thing. As I am finding out – when we feel the fear, and do it anyway, we are making a difference.

The best business people, artists, etc., live in that uncomfortable space of never feeling quite good enough.

They know that the biggest rewards lie in the things that terrify us.

Everyone’s afraid. Not everyone lets it stop them.

Not good enough. Says who?