One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six.
Six months ago, I set myself on a self-directed learning journey which opened like this:
"Joy at Large is a play on a previously held moniker. I left my job to be 'at large'; to create and hold space to learn, unlearn, and relearn. What I'm about to share is largely led by my omnivorous interests with the aim of gleaning insights that could help make a contribution to a person, team, organisation, and hopefully as much of humanity. What this exactly means is still work-in-progress."
Spring-boarding from Anthemis armed with a piece of advice to "go wide" exploring while being kind to myself, my interests stacked up into a series of themes I call Projects. In the spirit of sharing my learnings, a quick go-pro reel overviewing where, what, how, why, next steps for each project below. Feel free to ask more, comment, share your views.
Hangouts with gratitude: Rainmaking Loft, CEN-CENELEC, #inDiversity with Timber Foundation x STRV, Metaspeech, Tobias & Tobias, The Anthemis Fellowship, UnLtd Away Days, The Lab #7, Coaching Training @ MOE Foundation, Visual Bootcamp by @thnkclrly, Innovate Finance, Innovation Arts, Heresy, Global Leaders Academy, International Association of Facilitators, and other friends for your insights and generosity.
This one was about learning and practicing facilitation: design, facilitation, scribing. I am hugely grateful to be trained and guided by an excellent mentor.
Facilitation outside my known sphere means something (very) different to different people. Thus, the questions I took to every conversation in the first few months were i) what is facilitation and ii) can I see it in action? It has emerged as a verb, a function, timekeeping, a printed wad of instructions, playing game master, all of which constituted elements of the craft. They are useful modules, just as facilitation in brainstorming, scribing, improvisation, conflict resolution, movement serves purposes unique to each objectives. Coaching, behavioural psychology, visual thinking, workshop design, reading widely for lateral metaphors to use as workshop frameworks (read: Switch), modular exercises (read: Thinkertoys and Group Genius), tools in card form like Clarity, Oblique, Empathy decks have been fun to experiment with; the metaphysical layer, including seeking root motivations, balancing ethics, abstraction, conceptualising, synthesis, are emotionally, intellectually, creatively fulfilling discernments to hone.
Next steps: The focus of my training follows the MG Taylor methodology, or ASE as its twin sibling is known by. EY calls this rose by another name, but the process is pretty much the same aside from slight cosmetic tweaks. Leaping the Abyss is a brave attempt to put the full process in writing (more about this in the Library). Facilitation is a poor name to cover its full scope which draws from design and pedagogical principles by experience in architecture and accelerated learning. Notably, coaching (read: deep listening) has been an invaluable tool on every level. 2017 will see an expansion of facilitation repertoire, and hopefully to a point where science of design becomes an intuitive art.
Project Pay It Forward
Perhaps a more philosophical subject: one of the most penetrating remarks of 2016 for me was at the Web Summit. Eileen Burbidge was on a panel with Dave McClure and Justin Kan speaking on the subject of egos the morning after Trump was elected to office when she said, I paraphrase, 'in tech we design for inclusivity, but as a community we are insular, and the events of Brexit and Trump are telling us something we would be foolish to ignore.'
Project Pay It Forward put the question of 7.4 billion people in perspective; as one of this many people on our planet, what is my contribution to humanity? 'Impact', 'social impact' are still loosely defined terms, like 'facilitation', carrying a breadth of meaning amongst several groups: always clarify. Benefitting from others' retrospect, a framework emerged which portraits how we wish to give back: immediacy vs. scale, depth vs. breadth, complexity of systems, community types, ability to catalyse change, engagement models. The quintessential question is 'why': what assumptions are you making about needs and your relationship with them. I was accosted with 'why do you care' at the start of my journey, which served me well as I dipped into various levels of organised work on social impact.
Next steps: A lesson takeaway for someone whose aim is to impact as many lives as possible is that it requires a counterintuitive approach: focus your life's work on doing a few things extremely well. Simon Sinek's Start with Why and Osterwalder's Business Model You were useful coat hangers to give shape and reshape this focus. Paying close attention, the issues which disturb me the deepest have to do with sustainability, in itself a broad topic; sharing a similar narrative is A Quest for Meaning, a grassroots movie exploring global issues and its psychological and phenomenological effect on humanity. A project to further develop in 2017.
Project Future of X
This takes most of the Why spot. Sidestepping the Star Trek / Akira intrigue, there is a growing chasm between the usefulness of past experiences to inform the current and future problems we are tasked to solve. Breaking and exposing assumptions about our understanding of human behaviours, complex and symbiotic with technological advances, Toffler frames the narrative about accelerated change; transience transforms our relationships with people, place, and things. Following this chain of thought leadership invites new topics which I can no longer know little about: government, politics, public policy, healthcare, ethics, etc. I had the privilege of seeing how agents ahead of the curve of corporate understanding are writing, teaching, creating immersive artefacts, urgently bringing future thinking to relatively short-termist decision makers, while running labs experimenting with scenarios.
Next steps: This is a vast topic, throwing my memory back to the first day of M200 in college where a sagely professor, in a tone pregnant with wisdom, enunciated discernment when confronting the seas of writings about management: self purported gurus, shiny gimmicky bestsellers, recycled insights taking centre stage in stadiums. Like research on social impact, the questions I have had to ask are so what and what for?
Project Get Technical
This was fairly short-lived. It started out with the idea to learn how to code, but my motivations were unclear. I gravitated into workshops and bootcamps on UX design, with a specific interest in understanding how design was applied and facilitated in the development of products and services. Rapid prototyping was the most fun I had amongst the sessions, and it surprised me how much deep listening, clean questions and empathy is required in the tech scene in this function.
One to take off the shelf every six months or so. Curiosity started Cerebro: using Podio to map conversations, and Polinode to visualise the same growing, breathing network. With hindsight, there was little purpose other than see where my journey was inclining towards, the people, the work. The most surprising development is learning just how quickly networks grow and how the motion of serendipity is both organised and random. Hugely rewarding to find like spirited friends and study patterns of how we come to be, and helpful when logging details becomes a mundane task. I would highly recommend, especially those starting out on new-ish paths to be curious about their new ecosystem as it takes form. Happy to help with what little I know. Inspiration for this project was drawn from The Reliants Project.
It's been a wild and fun ride. I hope this helps. Reach out if you want to learn more, I'd be glad to listen and point.