Sunday, July 30, 2006

My Dinner with Patricia Shaw

In exploring complexity theory as it applies to human systems, I've read a number of authors - Dee Hock's Birth of the Chaordic Age, Margaret Wheatley's Leadership and the New Science, and Patricia Shaw's Changing Conversations in Organizations, to name three. I loved Changing Conversations, so I decided to see what else she might have to share on the topic.

This week I'm reading Experiencing Risk, Spontaneity, and Improvisation in Organizational Change: Working Live. I purchased it a few months ago, but was waiting for the right moment to read it. Since we've booked an improv program for the next CCODN meeting, I thought this would be a good time to dig into this book.

I'm home alone today, so I also had an opportunity to watch a movie that wouldn't interest anyone else in the house. Yesterday I thought I would watch Do the Right Thing, but as I started reading the new Shaw, I thought of My Dinner with Andre. Today, I popped the Andre into the DVD player. (Andre's misgivings notwithstanding, how can you not love technology?) It was an interesting complement to the book.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Egoic Open Space

This week I attended the ISPI Open Space event. I was lucky enough to propose two topics that resonated with other attendees, so I got to facilitate a couple of sessions.

Someone I met that night wrote me to say that I was "a wonderful facilitator" and "really made the event worthwhile" for her. I have been lolling around in that high praise for a few days now. It made my week!

Of course, the facilitation itself was not the purpose of the event, but for me, that facilitation experience was a high point. While I was tired afterwards, I was also strangely refreshed and re-energized. I felt somehow re-purposed.

The ISPI folks in attendance were highly creative and participated with gusto. That made my role as facilitator a whole heckuva lot easier than it would have been in a more conflicted situation.

Oh yeah, the night before I crammed by reading Harrison Owen's, Open Space Technology: A User's Guide.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Max scanned his mother with the bionetic hand.

"Not dangerous unless provoked," he announced.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I've Been Everywhere, Man

Throughout the week I kept trying to make time to post, but one thing after another kept me from the keyboard. It wasn't for lack of topics!

Some of you know I traveled to Connecticut this week. It was a thought-provoking and learning-filled trip, although I'll refrain from sharing many of the details publicly for now.

The Connecticut countryside is truly lovely - lots of huge granite stones amidst thickly forested, deep green hillsides. I was about an hour from NYC, and I actually glimpsed the city from the plane on the way out. Boston is about 1.5 hours away, and I'll bet I drove past at least four different colleges within a 10 mile radius. Greenwich is very nicely located in the middle of a rich number of cultural and natural resources.

Right before I drove back to the airport, I stopped in at the Bruce Museum, where they won me over with an exhibit called "Best in Show: Dogs in Art." I admit I was skeptical, but it turned out to be better than okay. This is the first time I've seen a guided museum tour conducted by cell phone - I thought that was a clever use of technology, too.

Saturday I drove to Cleveland to participate in the inaugural MPOD book club discussion. I've never joined a book club before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that I would enjoy the company of my former classmates, but I didn't know how the discussion would unfold and whether it would be beneficial. It turns out my former classmates had lots of good insights on Authentic Happiness, and the mere fact that we talked about the book reinforced my learning and memory and enhanced my understanding of the text. I'll definitely participate in the next session, no matter which book is finally selected.

Elaine and her husband Jeff were more than kind to open their home to us. Elaine invited Dave, a colleague of hers from the VA, to attend, and he contributed quite a bit to the discussion. Robb, Lora, Debbie, Beth, and I were the other MPODs in attendance.

I meant to attend Bloggapalooza in Cleveland, but I neglected to record the precise location before I left home. After driving up and down Detroit Avenue on the West side for half an hour, I gave up and drove to Mom's house. Little wonder I never found it on Detroit - it was on Superior on the East side! Argh. I'm disappointed in myself, and I'm going to take this lesson away for my next adventure: Know where you're supposed to be going, and bring a map!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Are You a Digital Native or a Digital Immigrant?

Among the blogs I subscribe to via Bloglines is Eyebeam reBlog. Generally, they point out online items of interest that combine art and technology. The week they pointed to a story about how brains might be changing as a result of our wired world.

Report: The next step in brain evolution - Sunday Times - Times Online

I question the use of the word evolution in the title of the article - I think for now we can only say that given the stimuli certain brains are receiving, they are reacting/growing in response to that stimuli. (In other words, I think existing brains are being cultured (nurtured) by a new environment, not necessarily "evolving" through natural selection - at least not yet.)

Anyway, that's a fine point.

The article makes the point that younger people are "digital natives" - they've "never known a world without instant communication." This is defined in the article as having access to cell phones and email. Who are the "digital immigrants?" I guess we're the old farts who lived in the days when before cell phones became ubiquitous. (I would like to point out that land-line telephones also offer "instant communication" - it simply isn't portable.)

Although I was born in the dark ages before color TV, I believe that I may be at least a missing link between the digital immigrants and the digital natives. Maybe I'm a first generation digerati. (That places me squarely in line with my socio-ethnic heritage, too. I'm generation 1.5 in immigration to the US.) I'm quite comfortable and thriving in my little virtual world, but I still remember what it is like to have a new technology introduced to me seemingly against my will. And some of my best friends and mentors tell me that they read my blog, but their "luddite tendencies" keep them from commenting on it.

This heritage of being between cultures and between technological advances might be what drew me into interpretion and liaison roles like technical writer and business analyst. Now I see myself bridging the world of business+technology with the world of enahanced human systems. (Or something like that. This seems like a rich vein for further personal exploration - note to self.)

What about you? Are you a digital native or a digital immigrant? Or are you a bridge between the old world and the new? And why do you say so?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Love of Learning

I took the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire last night for the Authentic Happiness book club reading. Once again, "love of learning" came out as my signature strength.

I don't want to whine (too much), but how is "love of learning" a strength? In my mind it doesn't compare to a strength like courage, for example. It doesn't seem to benefit the rest of the world in the same way.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Brain of the Blogger

Thanks to Stephanie at Idealawg for pointing out this article.

Eide Neurolearning Blog: Brain of the Blogger

I like blogging, so I'm glad that it appears to be "good for me." Brain Age notwithstanding, I definitely need all the anti-Alzheimer activities I can get!

Thanks to the Eides for the great post, too. I'll have to read their blog more regularly!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Is Everybody Happy?

I'm reading the first MPOD book club selection, Authentic Happiness, this weekend. There are a ton of instruments associated with the book on Seligman's web site. I've taken five of the instruments, and they don't really tell me anything new about myself - I already knew I was on average a less happy person than my peers. If you haven't done a lot of personal introspection, these short tests might be fun and enlightening for you, though.

I also started Kegan and Lahey's How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work. It's difficult not to compare them, even though they deal with different topics. I'm enjoying the content and tone of the Kegan more than the Seligman. How the Way We Talk is a fantastic follow-on to Ken Gergen's An Invitation to Social Construction. Gergen invites us to consider social construction, and Kegan provides solid ideas for implementing it!

As I stated in an earlier post about this first selection of the MPOD book club, I'm not all that enthused about the topic. I had hoped for something a little more research or organization-oriented. In my thinking about the world, "happiness" isn't something that you (should) go chasing after directly - it should be something that emerges from the activities that you pursue for other reasons. So right off the bat I'm a little put off by the premise of attempting to be "happier." Further, this particular selection is about building an individual positive psychology, but (at least so far) does not reach out into increasing the positive psychology or happiness of organizations. It's all good, but given the limits on my time and attention, I'd rather be reading something more directly applicable to my chosen field at this moment.

Yesterday I finished the first chapter of the Kegan. It would be a great choice for an OD book club - there are exercises in talking and listening that are geared to transforming the language we use every day at work and discovering what might make things better. So far, I'm giving this particular book a rave.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Interdependence Day

Rosa, Bruce, and Tessa and Delilah are coming to visit today!

New Albany postponed its fireworks, so we're planning to view those tonight. We'll also probably check out a new restaurant, the Hoover Grille.

Great friends, good food, and grand fireworks . . . what could be better?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Language is a Virus

I've managed to work my way through the first five chapters of Gergen's An Invitation to Social Construction.

My sense of being off balance has grown with each page - so much so, in fact, that I found myself skipping forward in the book in an attempt to find something hopeful and solid that I could cling to. We are indeed on shaky ground as sentient and relational beings. With the answer to each question about the meaning of meaning, we seem to sink deeper and deeper into more meaningless questions. Perhaps sinking deeper is the wrong metaphor - it's more like a mirrored funhouse room where reflections build upon reflections and nothing seems real.

I've nearly finished the sixth chapter, Dialogic Potentials. Gergen starts to introduce some ideas for dialogue practices to help us get over this hump of duality or "alterity." I'm very curious to see where he goes from here.

It's distressing to me that this book and these ideas are so difficult for me to grasp. Gergen throws these concepts like jello at the wall of my brain, and they simply slide off without sinking in. If I really want to "get it," I'm going to have to go back and read this book again from the beginning - maybe several times over.

I wonder if I was always this dense and just didn't realize it, or if I've lost mental capacity over the years. It's probably better not to know the answer to that question - I'm not sure which answer would make me feel worse.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Taos & Tilburg PhD

I was digging around Ken Gergen's home page and I realized there's a PhD program associated with the Taos Institute and Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

The question of what I would research and how is an enormous hurdle, so I don't think I'll ever attempt a PhD for that reason alone. But I'd love to do the reading associated with earning a PhD at some point in my life.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Please Bless These Seeds I Sow

Hmm. It has been one heckuva long week, and I'm relieved to see Saturday.

The portfolio exercise was revealing. I realized that I need to rethink whether I need a portfolio, and if so, how best to produce one. As a technical writer and instructional design consultant, it seemed essential. Now that I'm a whatever-I-am, I'm not so sure that producing a portfolio doesn't brand me as - what, a worker? As opposed to a thinker and manager? I'm not sure. For crying out loud, I work for a living. Does that necessarily imply that I don't think?

The resume needs a complete overhaul, too. It simply doesn't represent me accurately.

Looking over the past couple of years, I realize that I have built up some expertise in using collaborative and web technologies such as blogging. A lot of professionals of all stripes seem to be intimidated by technologies beyond email. I'd like to position myself as someone who can strategize around collaborative technologies, bring them into organizations, and nurture their acceptance and use. Years ago this was sometimes called knowledge management, and that idea seems to have died a dramatic and slow death. I think this was because it never got to be something that anyone other than technology specialists and sociologists understood. If we take a humanistic approach to it, would it be more widely accepted?

I see blogging as one of the ways I exercise these technology-collaboration muscles. So I plan to go about blogging a little more deliberately in the next few months as I build and solidify strengths in this area. You'll begin to notice some more bells and whistles on this site as well as the others I host as I experiment a little more actively. I think I may also try another blog hosting site, too, and build a new, more professionally oriented blog.

I will probably also begin trying some new things, like podcasting. I'd like to start by recording and producing the first MPOD book club meeting. It will be a challenge, because I have almost no idea of where to begin. I'll spend some of this holiday weekend researching that. If you know anything about where I should begin with podcasting, I'd love to hear from you.

I invite you to comment on your experiences with my blog, be they oriented toward the content or the technology. Right now I'm especially interested in these questions: if you subscribe to this blog or another of my blogs - how do you subscribe? Which aggregator do you use? Does it work with this blog? Are you more likely to subscribe by email, using the form that I've just uploaded from Feedburner? Does the name Feedburner make you nervous? (It certainly makes me nervous!)

It might seem a little presumptuous on my part to assume any readership at all, but I've recently started using Google Analytics, and it turns out that every so often a few people do drop in! My analysis of the stats suggests to me that these are more or less random hits based on an unusual title or subject I'm blogging about.

All in all, I'll be doing some capacity building this summer.