Archive for July, 2015

Curating and curation are now baked into much of our language use when we talk about learning and making sense of the overwhelmingly abundant information in the world now digitised.

But the question was posed by Mel Jones on Twitter via Anna Kingston and I found myself agreeing and disagreeing in equal measure.

I speak and attend a lot of conferences so my view is taken from that experience.  I get asked to recommend speakers and formats, seek out new topics and themes and generally assemble something with worth.

I know many people who put on conferences see themselves as curators. Others are event planners and organisers who happen to curate content via the speaker they secure.  Know thy audience is often a starting point. Check out the latest hot topics in trade journals and the media writ large, have a good black book of contacts. And now of course, sweat social media.

Curators really? Perhaps incidentally they curate.  But let’s look at the curator word.

A curator (from Latin: curare meaning “take care”) is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (i.e., gallery, museum, library or archive) is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material.
Curator – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia › wiki › Curator

Content specialist. Hmm. Not many conference organisers I’ve come across can really lay claim to being a content specialist (with the greatest respect).

A people, content and experience aggregator? Perhaps. A compiler?  Maybe.

Let’s look at a conference as a short term museum. A temporary collection of short term heritage.  A learning environment based on experiences, artifacts, displays. Curator still feels a stretch for those involved in putting the event together.

My mind drifted to theme parks. Theme park designers put together rides, sideshows and performances to excite and engage their attendees.  Conferences have some of that – maybe not the rides but who knows with VR headsets these days.  Not much curation going on there though I feel.

TED events have curator roles. People who seek out speaker experts with content and themes in line with the Technology Entertainment and Design triage.  TEDs resource: website and app – is an ongoing museum of content and performance so I suppose that counts.

Most conferences are now supported by bloggers. Now these guys are often experienced hands in their trade and with cultivated networks that reach. They post tweets, blogs, vines. Curation of sorts coming there. More curation in that space than those aggregating people and information that forms the conference agenda.

So conferences are loose curating vehicles and more aggregating, thematic, experiences merged with a learning venture.

Yes there is curation going on but I think they start from a performance perspective (theme park/festival) have incidental curation (during production then from blog squads) and end up sometimes in museums of online story telling.

Aggregation that can equal curation is my best shot at this in answer to the question.

Perhaps they (conferences) ought to be more curation instigated and focused throughout but then I’m not the conference organizing expert.

More an enthusiastic attendee, contributor and curator…I’ll get me coat and bag of free expo swag.

Ah the beauty of an unconference.  Loose format; Open Space as our guiding frame and then the thoughts, passion and ideas that come from discussions with people known and unknown.

Screenshot 2015-07-21 at 13.00.19

The folks at have arranged this event as an unconference around the question “Why aren’t organisations shifting?” and by shifting we’re saying yes there’s change but is it the kind of change we need or should be seeing given the new insight, inspiration and enlightenment we have about the human soul, spirit and mind at work..?  It seems not.  We do see examples of great ways to work in some places but the behemoths of olde and the toxicity of yore is still with us in a way we thought we might have moved from knowing what we know about the great crash, the new insight we’ve discovered about ourselves and our motivations and the movement  at great pace that technology is leading us towards.

At this event are a range of people who have a buzz and a thought or 3 about this shifting reference. Some freewheeler traders of the sole variety and others with staff numbers and jobs in conventional organisations.  A small band of activists?  I guess you could say that.

We’ve started with some contemplation about why we’re here and the way we can work today but mostly it’s been about people with a issue or a topic or an idea or an unconventional model to test.

Leadership was the first group discussion I was involved in.  And the posing question was around the role of leaders in these new ways.  What, in this different future, needs shfiting in the ways people lead and the behaviours people demonstrate as leaders?

Ok the answer is probably a flippant “A lot” or “Nothing” depending on your attachment to orthodoxy or otherwise.

Our discussion leader’s additional question was is the delivery of change helped or hindered by the leader’s role in either the new way of working or their dogged attachment to the old?  Is an attachment to the old about wanting to maintain and retain traditions and customs that have served the organisation well and should continue to do so or is the attachment because it’s about them and their power base?  Probably all / some of these factors.

Inevitably we spun into a discussion about the new forms of leadership and the new ways of managing – especially sociocracy and holacracy.  In such models, we discussed the difficulties posed when leaders are either 100% pushing it (Tony Hsieh at Zappos) or actively resisting it (most other CEOs).  We talked about the need for more humane, organic ways of organising and being and as such leading and that the machine and mechanic ways currently prevailing are now starting to literally “run out of steam”.

We talked about the hanging onto control; the continuing leverage of fear and the conditioning of the human soul and psyche to conform to whatever norms are present in parenting, education and then work.

We talked about the courage needed to make the changes from hierarchical, power-based and even fear induced ways of working to more socialised and self-determined ways of working.

We found what united our thinking was the display of passion in whatever your cause or mission or purpose was in the organisation.  Indeed the purpose element was considered the strongest and this is backed up by the things we’ve read and seen in the ether about purpose-led organisations and leaders who tap into the purpose and get some outperforming organisations delivering amazing things and creating the fantastic working environments that most can only dream of.

As inevitable it was that holacracy came up so did Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations book.  With lots of lovers and some loathers, Laloux’s work certainly capture a more humanist way of doing work and that the successes of the organisations featured and the distinct link between human evolution and organisational development got us talking.

We talked about the huge amount of leaders operating in SMEs.  So not just Branson, Zuckerberg and Ellison but those in the thick of the vast majority of organisations where a huge percentage of people are employed or work within.  What makes/keeps those people in charge of thriving places of work is their authenticity and perhaps connectivity to the people and human side of the work they do.  What they do is what Laloux eloquently describes as “holding the space” and that others lead.  Inevitably the holacracy model came up again and one of our group – working in that model – stated it’s utter liberation and a love of the work that results from being in this model.

I talked up the organisations and their approach to freedom at work: that workplaces without fear; with distributed power and control dispersed across the wider workforce was proving to be more economically sustainable and more humane and soulful.

We then re-zoomed in on the leadership role within the more progressive thinking and doing organisations and we hit on two key “Cs” that is demonstrated and we deduced vital; being a Catalyst and being a Champion.  A move from Head-based leading to Heart-based leading.

I dropped the E-bomb (empathy) as a wonderful aspect of leadership and that already has been hijacked by commentators, thought leaders and leadership development deliverers alike.  Empathy and the more feminine side of being human – caring, support, non-macho strength, compassion, nurturing.  We deduced that there was already a tipping point and that feminine – not necessarily just female – leaders were starting to show their worth and strength.

So leadership, leading and being a leader in a shifting organisation is tough.  It goes against the grain of years of conditioning – not necessarily the right conditioning  – and is also derided by many considering themselves to be successful and effective proponents of the existing ways.

It’s tough and it’s worthwhile.  That so many people try to change an organisation from within and then leave to pursue their own career outside bears testament to the futility of some of the change.

Why try and change the current big four / magic circle / banking conglomerates etc. when actually, we may just be better divesting our efforts into the creation of alternatives.  That for a while will be a complement the existing behemoths and incumbents but may/should/will eventually displace and replace them.  The scale and diversification issues apart, Handelsbanken provides proof that you can scale and maintain an alternative to the banking model.  Buurtzorg proves there’s an alternative to the nursing methods in practice for home care etc.

Conceive, build and prove the alternative.  Only then will the tired, toxic and tyrannical corporates wither and die and leave us with an abundance of good.  A plenty of sweet.  A soulful mass.

That’s leadership for the shift.  Believe in the alternative, lead the change to make that alternative happen and the shift won’t be in the old being reborn but the alternatives taking over.

Do you want to lead exhibits in a living museum or a be at the centre of a thriving community of passion and belief?  #orgshift will share more I’m sure.  For now, that’s the first discussion documented.


Posted: July 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

As I walked to work at an award winning organisation in fashion retail I walked past a postman delivering mail to an office.  Two sacks slung over his shoulder we smiled as we walked past each other.  “There’s the day’s work for some office-based team” I thought to myself.  And I was reminded of an important letter I put in the post yesterday for someone who needed a “wet” signature on a contract to speak at a conference in London later this year.  I was glad people like this man, do their job well enough that my letter will get there.  I’ll get to speak at a fantastic conference and earn some money in the process. I had a sudden rush of appreciation of people like postmen who do what they do day in, day out so that I can do what I do and live the way I live.

And I was reminded of my views on work – that it’d be great if we all loved (mostly) what we did for a living.  Even if you’re a street cleaner; a drain un-blocker; a pizza deliverer or even a retail giant wish fulfilment operative.  Some people think I’m a bit too naive to think this.  Maybe it is a pipedream and there will always be people who dislike even hate their jobs and nothing will make it better.

I tell you what DOES make any tedious, menial, or other derogatory descriptions given to the work no-one really wants to do but has to do feel a bit better.


Screenshot 2015-07-17 at 09.53.43

So I appreciate the postal workers who will deliver my letter today.

I appreciate the people who will open and process that mail as part of their job running a speakers’ bureau.

I appreciate the train driver who got me here today and the tube staff who do their thing underground.

I appreciate the people who discover medicinal remedies that keep my parents alive.

I appreciate the people who delivered the coffee and food to the place I will eat and drink from today.

I appreciate the people working in the power industry so the electricity needed for me to work on stuff is always there.

I appreciate the people looking after those less fortunate than me.

I appreciate the people giving up their time to volunteer and help charities keep humanity going.

I appreciate those who read this and will appreciate others more.  I even appreciate those who have different views to mine.  Who may not like the way I do what I do or think how I think.  It’s a choice you’re making and that’s fine.  I appreciate that you don’t slag me off and make me feel bad about the world.  I appreciate silence as much as challenge.

Anyway, I don’t know how I personally can make the postman, train driver and food preparation people feel appreciated but I guess the more we share that we do, the more likely they are to feel that and have better feelings about the work they do.  Which other people wouldn’t want to do.

Appreciation.  It’s not even hard to do.  It’s being aware of the need to do it.  I will make sure that people who help me live know I appreciate them and their colleagues more whenever I get the chance.  And maybe they will all appreciate their work and those of others more.  Infectious appreciation I guess.

Who do you appreciate and how will they know?

I appreciate your time in reading this.

*A transcript of my speech to the Leesman Index Event 9 July 2015*

If we looked at the workplaces of now as a place of comfort, a place of safety at times of distress, as a place that consoled us during our chaotic lives (that isn’t work), I’m not sure it would rate highly on any review websites.

It’s lacking. 

Soul, imagination, humanity.

OK not everywhere but we’ve designed (largely) efficiency-creating zones of mechanised hedonism.  Where our every blink has been time and motioned into the lean book of “sick sigma”.

Toxic environments where grey, beige and frosted glass give us nothing but shivers of incarcerated damnation for 8 hours a day.  Be they factory, hospital, office, garage or espresso hut.

OK maybe I’ve over dramatised a little and it’s not all that bad but why oh why do we celebrate foosball tables, slides, faux atriums and fountains in receptions?

It’s because we rarely seem to take into account that work environments shouldn’t be engineered places of subtle domination.  It should be a celebration of human endeavour, creativity and joy.  It should provide comfort, solace and protection from the bad world of everyday toughness. It’s hard out there.  But instead of creating a warm nest of support to enable the best of our people, we’ve created near-tortuous slabs of concrete encrusted sarcophaguses.

It’s time for planned explosions and demolitions of those outrageously dated living museums.

Why?  Because we’re social.  We’re socially wired.  And we’re better socially enabled.  No one was made to spot weld or fuse a circuit board for 8 hours a day in a blue smock and a mask on a line where dignity is left at the door whilst you become a semi-permanent fitting amongst the permanent fixtures.

And social means a new construct to the ebb and flow of a working environment as well as the designed features of architectural and space planned standards.

I’ll not just talk offices but that’s where I’ve spent most if not all of my working life up to being a freelancer.  We need human proximity.  Spiritual connectivity.  Fluidity of base.

Ok the efficiencies of production may dictate something needs to be done in a certain way, certain area and with certain equipment.  I get that.  We all do.

But think about the organic, carbon based, soulful entity inside the blue overalls.  What about their social space when they’re NOT on the production line?  What about their place to recharge?  What about their place to share ideas for improving their production line?  A place to be comfortably trained on their tasks?  A place where they can laugh and form a kinship of support and trust with their fellow people?

Even if only for short bursts.

But evidence is showing us a lot is wrong with work which includes the concrete encrusted sarcophagi of my earlier rant. 

Somewhere they feel (even for 10 minutes every 3 hours) at home. In space that gives solace.

As Neil Usher (@workessence) so elegantly drafted recently “not about working from home but where work has a homely feel to it”.

I think we need a humanity check on all workplaces and instead of just jumping on the usual lick of paint, beanbags and stuff to please “the millennials” we need to do much more of (IMHO) BYOD – bring your own design.  I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll keep mentioning it until I’m proven a charlatan know-nothing.

When we have a say in what we do and how we do it, we do it with pride, energy, belief and power.  So why we have absolutely no say in the design and look and feel of the place we work is a little bit beyond me.  It may not have to be ALL aspects of workplace but I suspect the silence and lack of contributions to workplace design are because “we accept what we’re given and are grateful for it”.  Like some Victorian hovel we called a room.  Just marginally better than a sty.

For years I toiled away in places I thought were just what normal places to work were, except we now know better.  How much more efficient would have I been in a better designed place I’ll never know.

Most workplaces when I started (in the later 1980s) were – on reflection – a little more social than those I worked in during the 90s. and 00s.  They became quieter through use of email and not phones or conversations; where people left desks and huddled over more and more meetings in rooms on other floors especially built for such important interventions. 

I don’t know whether habits created the spaces or the spaces created the habits.

All I know is, instead of it getting better by the time I left corporate, it got worse.  Much worse.

Is it getting better?  Not quickly enough but there’s more research, evidence and generally people are now saying “how come this place looks like it did in the 1990s?”

What habits and technology is now doing is reinstalling our social software from years of solo programming.

And this is causing some agitation that the rediscovery of social as a good way to work, productive way to energise and generally in tune with the human psyche, is now at odds with our sterile, bland and functional workplaces.

As Bertrand Russell says…

The only thing that will redeem mankind is collaboration”

Think about space to do all range of social activities INCLUDING somewhere to escape social briefly or to be social in other ways like over video chat channels. 

Skype booths may look like a sarcophagus but actually can be a great little hideaway just for a 10 minute chat.

Think about spaces where ideas can fly.

Spaces that can be adapted.

Spaces that can be customised.What’re my answers then?

Think about social connections. 

Spaces that promotes the conversation.  The exchange.  The human proximity.

Spaces that inspire.

Space that creates solace. 
Never mind the current bollocks.

There’s a piece written in a newspaper saying that the great George Orwell would hate HR and the language it uses.

He might well have done.  There was a tenuous link to the reason why: he liked no bullshit, straight talking.  HR – in the article – was considered THE most guilty of all for spin, jargon and horrid terms.  Pointless, petty bureaucrats.  Hopping around looking for inequality to tackle and a policy to write.

That whole language misuse is debatable IMHO.  I’ve worked with marketers – utter tripe talked there at times.  I’ve worked in IT – the most outrageous bollocks spouted as project speak.  I’ve been in boardrooms: fantastic bastardisation of terminology.  Quite why the journo chose to have SUCH a go at HR is beyond me and I’m not here to defend bureaucrats, shoddy professionals or plastic leaders from said profession I happen to be a part of.  I see it, hear it and even use some of it.  Sorry human race.

However, there’s a lot better stuff to be re-tweeting and posting and I’m not even going to take it on.  I’m using as shite a title as the journo did as click bait or sensationalist claptrap to lure people into this blog.

Now, what’s NOT sensationalist is a conversation I had with 10 other interesting and thoughtful people off the back of someone else’s recommendation to meet up.

It was about human beings and this thing we call work, and these places we work run as organisations.

It was a joyous 2 hours of no-ego, gently facilitated discussion which on the outside looked like a kumbya gathering but what turned out to be 10 other people who gave a shit about something beyond themselves.

People who were puzzled at why human beings in organisations find little but financial recompense in their work.  Who are dismayed at the dissent and downright sadness many people experience in their work.  That organisations – by definition – diminish the human being and that leadership is STILL way off for what’s needed in the 21st century.

Language DID come up but not the trite kicking given to some laughable jargon – the downright spirit-depressing tomes used in organisations.  Used in politicking, angst-ridden corporations many people have to survive in to make a decent living.  How it is still the language of mechanisation, of keeping people down and of power dynamics long held by unworthy individuals.

See I don’t know about you, but I’d rather a journalist with valuable column space would write about that kind of language abuse. Else don’t commit fingertips to keyboard until there’s something of real value to take on.

George Orwell would probably turn around and say “nice try, but leave me out of such pettiness.  Accepting that all pettiness is equal but some more petty than others of course”.

I was asked to provide a quote for the marvellous people over at Good Practice in conjunction with the fabulous people at Charity Learning Consortium.  These guys are professional peers and social friends and they live and breathe learning in an online capacity.  They have a lot of success and a lot of energy towards an area I’m keenly interested in and practice a lot.

The quote was in conjunction with some research undertaken into things like 70:20:10 and learning communities and it was around learning communities that I was quoted.

I wrote this in full response and there’s an extract here

My full “piece” went like this – and I guess overall I am still feeling a bit dismayed that our learning professional colleagues are still not making the most of online learning communities.  There’s “gold in them thar hills” is the phrase that springs to my mind but many of my professional counterparts aren’t even looking for the gold let alone taking their pickaxes to the rocks.

“There is clearly something good to continue with highlighted by this report, and more to begin doing based on this research and my view of the world of learning in the 21st century, hyper-connected, digitally-driven, incessant world we are in.

My favourite continue is to continue to believe in online communities and their powerful place in the world of professional and work-based learning & development.  I have had such good experiences and energy from online communities I firmly believe
it is a key part of not only online learning, but work and productive living in the future.  They supplement real-life connections / relationships and provide low-friction connection and keep-in-touch where all other attempts in the past (conference calls; email groups; video conferences etc) have failed.

Begin thoughts are to make more of online communities – deliberately and actively.  We are still very low on the uptake of using social tools if only a third of our profession utilise online communities and 14% encourage learners to share, collaborate and cultivate learning online with each other.  Think beyond LinkedIn groups too – they become quickly saturated, have a less-then-desirable User Experience/Interface and clog up rapidly.  Google+, Good Practice, Ning, Yammer, CIPD Community, DPG Community, Jive, Pinipa – all have great community features and slick UX/UI.

My concern is the lack of activism by learning professionals in this world equates to low take up or utilisation of this forum/medium/channel for learners.  How and why learning professionals ignore/leave out the online
community world is beyond me.  It’s like we’ve longed for this solution to take learning to new found occasional, constantly humming along levels yet we aren’t jumping in with gusto and energy.  Many learners are “out-learning / out-socialising” their learning professional counterparts and that is ominous as learning professionals continue to search for their sweet spots in this accessible world of insight.

So my urge is for learning professionals to dive into online communities for themselves.  Use that learning experience to then deliberately utilise them in your delivery mechanics and help your learners discover this endless well of information, connection and sense-making.  They also provide amazing data, rapid sharing, cries for help, supportive chats and collaborative innovation.

Online communities really are a key part of any learning model / strategy.  Let’s make them a default not an add-on.