Monday, February 26, 2007

Reflections on the Fishbowl

The fishbowl is a memory now, but you can view the remnants of that memory on the Nexus for Change web site. It's fascinating to me to see the myriad ways people process reality. The Nexus was consciously processed in real-time through a graphic recording, an audience chat, and a live blog. The call audio was recorded, too. I'll update you when the recording is posted for listening.

What about the prep work that went into creating, planning, and supporting the fishbowl? Steve Cady told a one-sentence anecdote about conceiving the fishbowl during a conversation with Gabriel Shirley. A team of designers, including Nancy White, Karen James, Jon Kennedy, and Steve Pyser worked for months to craft the experience. Thought leaders were engaged and documented. There was a dry-run practice session! And finally the Big Day arrived.

After the call, the fishbowl team convened via Skype for a debrief. Reflections on lessons learned and what we could do better next time (if there is a next time) were elicited and documented. An idea to follow up with the audience via online survey emerged (a draft is out there already!). Statistics of how many were on the call - total, at any one time, and for how long - have been shared via email. The backchannel Skype chats the process team engaged in have been saved down and distributed, too.

Remarkably, the whole is (still) more than the sum of its parts. The sensemaking began long ago and will go on from here, throughout the Nexus event, and into the future.

What sense do you make of whole group methods? Are they a fad, as one thought leader hinted? Too positive? Not grounded in research and/or reproducible result?

I think I resonate most to something thought-leader Peter Block said: "When we plan an event in community . . . the work into planning the event builds community . . . there's a nuance in all of that." For me that means that it isn't about the outcome per se, it is about the process.

What do you think?

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Monday, February 19, 2007

What Good Is It If No One Uses It?

On the Nexus for Change site there is a list of community of practice and pre-conference gatherings. Each of them provides a link to a registration page where you can indicate you'd like to attend. Someone has even provided short instructions at the top of the page that tell you how to access the registration page.

It's interesting and I think important to note that the only registration page with any RSVPs is the one for the technology enthusiasts.

Clearly, these Web 2.0 technologies, intended to support communities of all kinds, are most widely accepted and used by those who have an established comfort level with technology.

How can those of us who are enthusiastic about the value of these social technologies help others see their value and become more comfortable with them?

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Great Writing: Seth Godin Says It's All On Me (And He's Right)

Seth Godin is an A-list blogger (among other, more important things). I don't generally link to these super-successful bloggers, because you'll find them on your own. But he said some things about writing this week that hit me hard and have been nagging at me. In writing about writing, Seth wrote:

"The thing most people miss most is that they no longer have an excuse. Without a publisher/editor/boss to blame, your writing is your writing. Your followup is your followup. That means some people become trains without tracks. They just sit there.

The barriers are gone, the costs are zero. The question is: what are you going to do with your writing?"

He's right, of course. So there's no one else to blame that this blog isn't more thought-provoking or more interesting or prettier than it is. It's all on me. How annoying. Reminds me of the Mary Oliver line:

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"


Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Great Reference: The Change Handbook

It appears that the Nexus for Change is in part an offshoot of the publication of this new edition of The Change Handbook and The Handbook of Large Group Methods. Many of the editors and chapter authors of both will be in attendance at the Nexus.

A few weeks ago Nancy White, an author featured in The Change Handbook, offered a copy of the second edition to the first five commenters to a post on her blog. Since my comment was among the first five, Nancy forwarded a copy to me. (Thanks, Nancy!)

Saturday I opened the book and started reading - it was tough to put down. There are 61 different whole system change methods detailed in the handbook. The format makes the information readily accessible (what else would you expect from people passionate about organizational learning?) and eminently browsable. One-page descriptions and a longer chapter describe each method. The methods are presented in a consistent format that makes them easy to compare.

If that isn't enough, there are chapters that provide an overview of the emerging "field" of whole system change methods, as well as thoughts about what aspects are shared among the methods and what makes each unique. All in all, it's a great reference for organization development practitioners and community change activitists.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

(Spelling) Bee Season

My 11-year-old son is representing his grade in the district-wide spelling bee. In preparation and celebration, we picked up the DVD Akeelah and the Bee. It was fun and inspiring, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, I think it was also a little intimidating - those words at the national level are tough! And how many kids have a dedicated coach who is an English professor and knows Latin? It would be hard to compete with that kind of preparation, no matter how long you studied on your own.

My son and I are going to have to redouble our efforts if we want to make it to the Nationals. Yes, I know I'm using "we." As Akeelah discovers, there are "50,000 coaches" who want to help.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

AOM ODC Reviews Due Tuesday

So I'm back to reading and reviewing the paper for the Academy of Management Organization Development and Change division. I've been through the paper at least five times now, and it's finally becoming more understandable. It is clearly the work of someone who has mastery of a lot of knowledge that I'm just beginning to tap into.

I wish I could write more about the content of the paper, but that could undermine the double-blind reviewing process. So you'll just have to read all of the ODC papers when they are presented at the meeting in August!

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

New Toy for the Nexus: Attendr

I've written before about a conference I'm planning to attend in March - the Nexus for Change. One of the Nexus organizers, Gabriel Shirley, has created an "Attendr" site for the Nexus. I always get a kick out of these new Web 2.0 toys, so I had to try it out.

One of the features Attendr provides is a tool to indicate people you'd like to meet at the conference. This feature caused me a lot of consternation - not because it is difficult to use, but because it made me ask myself some questions. For example, how selective should I be in listing people? Part of the fun and learning at a conference is meeting people outside your usual circle - people you might never pick out of a directory as someone you just had to meet. So would naming people ahead of time be limiting that emergent experience at the conference? Would those people I named, presently strangers to me, feel weird - like they were being stalked? Would the people I didn't name feel left out?

The safest thing to do was to name no one. Since I'm trying to grow out of doing the safest thing all the time, that choice was easily eliminated. The next thing I tried was naming three people - these were people I've "met" online, but have never actually been in the same physical space with. Okay, that's still pretty safe. So the next thing I did was name everyone on the list. Being the connector that I am, I want to meet everyone anyway! And it seems like it would be a nice thing to see on your Attendr profile that someone wants to meet you. So that's what I finally landed on.

A related feature in Attendr is the ability to indicate who you know at the conference. This is intended as an aid to networking - if Jane wants to meet Larry, and she can see that you already know Larry, it's an easy thing to ask you for an introduction. Again I was faced with questions and dilemmas. Should I name people I've only met online as people I "know?" Will the people I truly have met in person be uncomfortable in any way by having me declare that association publicly? I decided that my virtual acquaintances would go on the "to meet" list, and that anyone brave enough to list their name in Attendr would be brave enough to have my name associated with theirs on the World Wide Web.

Gabriel writes about Attendr and provides a brief user guide on his blog, Dancing Fish. If you're going to the Nexus, check out Attendr as part of your pre-conference experience!


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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Snow Days!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday, Monday

I managed to read the AOM paper again this weekend. It's starting to come easier - one more time through and I'll probably be confident enough to actually begin the review itself. I better get a move on, though - final reviews are due February 13.

Schools across the region are closed today due to the cold - it was -1 degree F when I left home this morning. Luckily, my 10-year-old Saturn coughed to life on the first turn of the key in the ignition. One more thing to be thankful for!

The work week promises to be extremely busy, with one new project being added to my personal book of work and two smaller ones being transitioned to other PMs.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

East Meets West Columbus

For months I have been downloading and listening to the Alan Watts podcasts. While some of his language is dated, sometimes the thoughts he expresses are crystal clear and transcendant. It's like having your own personal Zen master whack you hard between the eyes.

If you're interested in Eastern thought, you really should check out these free recordings. It's important to note - they aren't a complete and comprehensive study. They're 15-minutes free samples that entice you to purchase the complete recordings. That can be frustrating when Watts makes some brilliant connection or seemingly outrageous pronouncement and the end-of-the-podcast drumbeats kick in!

I'm not complaining, though. I'm grateful to Mark Watts, Alan's son, for making these free recordings available. I likely never would have heard them otherwise.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Media Overload

When I saw a (legitimate) email in my personal Inbox with the subject "Tortilla Prices in Mexico," I knew I was oversubscribed.

Yes, I know this is a serious issue in Mexico. And I understand that it's an indicator of large-scale social and environmental issues. But you know what? A gal can only process so much.

If I unsubscribe from your listserv or yahoo!group or google group or e-newsletter this week, I hope you'll understand - it's nothing personal. I just cannot take any more input.