It has been a really exciting week as we have moved into the soft-launch phase of Think Share Create (www.thinksharecreate.com).
It all started at the end of last year with a blog article about a particle that might have been observed travelling faster than light and the revolutionsary implications of that discovery being confirmed. The blog article posed the question – what if everything you know is wrong? What becomes possible if the things you thought impossible are not?
So began a process of playing with ideas and moving through various potential iterations until Think Share Create was born and this week we began to populate the member area with people who want to play. There are a number of ways to join the fun. You can download the app (try it out below) and use the code on the offers page to get a free 1 month trial. Alternatively if you have a Klout score of over 45 contact me at email@example.com and I’ll forward you an even better offer.
If you love to play with ideas and can see that open collaboration is the way forward then come and play.
There are so many ideas that die. So many people have ideas about what could be. Dreaming is what we do and dreaming is good for us and yet, to many of us, dreams feel like risks. They can feel like risks for a number of reasons. The pursuit of dreams is often disruptive to life as it is. Then there is the risk that the dream won’t be achieved. None of want to remembered as a person with big dreams who never made any of them happen.
Over recent months I have spent a lot of time working with a colleague thinking over these very issues. We concluded that there are three main barriers to individuals turning pipe dreams into reality.
Lack of personal resources
Lack of connections with resourceful people
Lack of financial resources
As Simon Hague and I played with these thoughts we began to wonder how we could help individuals to overcome these obstacles. What if individuals with crazy ideas could play with others who had different perspectives, different skill sets, different experience? What might happen if individuals combined their personal resources to make a dream they believed in come true? What if we could provide cash awards that didn’t need repaying and left the owners with 100% equity in their company?
We played with all sorts of ideas and eventually Think Share Create was born. It’s simple really. A place to play with ideas. A place to meet others with whom to collaborate to develop ideas into real business prospects. An award system that puts money into the hands of people with great ideas.
Think Share Create opens for business in a few days time. The app is already available for android and will soon be available for iPhone. You can pre-register your interest at www.thinksharecreate.com Come and play.
Being utterly convinced that the future of work lies in project based employment and networked organisations is an experience of mixed emotions. On the one hand my reading and thinking is a source of excitement and eager anticipation. On the other hand, I fear the apparent lack of security.
Over the weekend I found myself asking the question: how did it work before big organisations? The answer I found has relieved some of my fear. The answer I found was the medieval guild. This is how wikipedia defines them:
“A guild (German: Gilde) is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent by a monarch or other authority to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as meeting places.”
This definition takes me to all sorts of places and pulls together a number of ideas that I have been playing with but before I go there let me distance myself from bits of this definition. I have no interest or desire for new trade unions, cartels, secret societies or government patronage.
My interest in this idea lies in the consideration of human interdependence in a networked environment. I realised that many of my fears around the insecurity of the apparent future of work lay in a 20th century paradigm of independence. To exist as a lone worker in an environment of project based employment is scary. To exist within a group (or network) of trusted colleagues is different. The potential of remaining busy would appear to be a lot higher in that interdependent context.
This led me on to consider some of the ways I think about the work I do. Whilst I enjoy and value working as an associate in other people’s projects I have always felt this was second class work. After all, I run my own business and I want to be busy doing projects that come directly through my business. Thinking about the way a guild works shifted my perspective. The associate work I do is within a network in which I am a trusted craftsman. When I am asked to fulfil that work it is an expression not of my dependence but rather of the interdependence of the network. In a guild it doesn’t matter which door the work came in by. What matters is that all we trust one another’s skills and that together we are more than our constituent parts.
As I sat down to write this post one more loose end tied in. A friend and I have been playing with the thought that when you bring people together a space forms between them. This white space is more than the sum of the skills, talents, personalities of the group. It is an unexplored space in which there is potential for something new in which the group is found to be capable of more than the sum of its constituent parts. The most ambitious idea to come out of this is the idea of taking a large open office space and creating a space for innovative companies from different sectors to work and to interact. since having the idea I’ve discovered various places where this is now being done (for one example see www.techhub.com). Then I read the definition of guilds again and the last sentence of the quote above leapt out: “A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as meeting places.”
There it is, the idea of people coming together in a physical space. The guild hall’s were more about ‘union’ meetings but with a little liberty to stretch the idea it can be easily brought back to the emerging concept of collaborative hubs.
My thinking on this is still emerging but already the future has been made less scary.
If, as increasingly more people believe, we have reached the end of the industrial era and are moving into a new and very different era then the future is far from predictable. Up to now we have worked on an assumption that the future will be more of what we know and have applied ‘if… then’ reasoning to the future. Even change management has often made the basic assumption that change is a movement from the current position to a different but equally knowable position.
As a coach I was trained to think in terms of goals. The very first part of the GROW model is ‘Goal.’ The trouble is that goal setting assumes that stability and change are human choices. What if instability and change are forced upon us? What if that instability and change is caused by the onset of a global transition towards a new but as yet unknowable era? What is the role of the coach or of goal setting in this environment?
When the past is not a reliable reference point and the future is unknowable then you are left with the present. That brings me to two words: mindfulness and exploration. Mindfulness is about being aware of now. It is inhabiting the moment. Exploration is an attitude to the future that puts us in control of the unknowable. Exploration allows me to design the next stage in my journey without necessarily being able to envisage its destination. To explore the unknown requires mindfulness. To move into an unknowable future requires an awareness of the now that enables me to confidently take my next step.
In this light coaching is the facilitation of exploration. That requires assisting our clients to achieve awareness of now and understanding the nature and purpose of their exploration. This is not coaching without the inclusion of goals but it is coaching in which the goals are carefully formed to account for the unknowable future.
One of my favourite pieces of classical music is Vaughn Williams’ – Fantasia on a theme from Thomas Tallis. The piece begins so quietly I have to crank up the volume on my speakers and from there it builds to a point where, if I am not alone, I have to turn the volume down again.
As the future comes into view there are certain long-sighted individuals who see what appears to be ahead, and who begin to talk about it. Slowly, as more and more people see the distant picture, the chorus of voices grows until eventually we all see. At the moment there is a small but growing chorus of people who are all pointing to the same thing. It seems that there is a growing consensus that the models of work and business with which we have grown up are coming to the end of their useful life. Some would argue, that they have already outlived their usefulness.
The words being used to describe this new world often include words like – collaboration – community – shared – social – better – transparency – and perhaps most profoundly – human. The Wordle below is based on the blog of Harold Jarche.
Much of what is being written is focussed on large organisations and governments but I have found myself wondering what all this means for SMEs and micro-businesses. I’m not sure that the picture is clear for me yet but it is interesting to spend some time thinking about how the foreseen changes will change the way small businesses work. Here are some of my embryonic thoughts:
1. More business will look like micro-business. Many believe that the future of employment is project based. That leads to a fascinating set of possibilities. What we now think of as large organisations will exist by contracting individuals or small companies. This being the case, there will be significantly increased opportunity and significantly increased competition.
2. In this environment those micro-businesses and SMEs that can quickly draw on collaborative partners will be better positioned to compete for these larger opportunities. This is already the case but it will become more so.
3. A new econmoic environment will create new possibilities that are not yet identified. The key to identifying these possibilities will be to take time to notice what lies in the white space betweeen the defined capabilities of you and your partners.
I am increasingly convinced that the phrase that sums up the future for SMEs and micro-businesses is the simple statement that TOGETHER WE ARE MORE.
When Amundsen reached the North Pole in May 1926 he achieved something that had probably never been achieved before. His journey was a true exploration into an unknown wilderness. Today teams raising money for charity undertake the gruelling and dangerous journey but they are not explorers, they are tourists visiting a place that is known via a route that is known. The journey is hard and it is a massive achievement to complete it but it is not a journey of exploration.
Some years ago I had the privilege of visiting Victoria Falls. On the Zambian side, at the head of the path down to the falls stands a statue of David Livingstone. Out in the middle of the falls stands Livingstone Island from where the explorer is said to have first viewed the falls. He had trekked his way through the unmapped interior of Africa to reach this awesome spectacle of nature. I had flown in from Lusaka. The spectacle was the same but I was a tourist not an explorer.
The distinction between tourists and explorers is an important one. A tourist can take tried and tested paths to reach a known destination. An explorer may or may not know where he is going and will be uncertain as to how he will get there. A tourist can plan every step of his journey. An explorer may only know what the next step is.
It strikes me that with all the uncertainties of our current economic climate, it is increasingly impossible to be a tourist. With increasing numbers of people flagging up that we appear to be on the brink of something very different perhaps we are all explorers. The question is, how will that thought change today for you?
Towards the end of last year a colleague and I came across a blog post that we found particularly challenging.Central to the post was the question:
What if everything you know is wrong?
The more we thought about it, the more excited we became by the potential this question is capable of unlocking. We began to have very excitable conversations about how this question could enable people to leap into a brand new paradigm in which ideas, products and solutions that don’t yet exist could be conceived. We got excited by the potential of this question to get people through the current economic turmoil into the new economics that will emerge. What if the people we introduced this question to could become leaders and first movers who actually invent the future? What if we could multiply that to thousands of people? The Experiment was born.
Available from today we have put together a weekly programme of exercises that should take each participant about an hour a week. At the end of each week we ask each participant to report back on some simple metrics so that we can begin to collate data on the outcomes of The Experiment. This really is a genuine experiment that we believe will make a huge difference to those who participate. The administration fees have been kept as low as possible to make The Experiment accessible to as many people as possible.
So this is your invitation to join us and to spread the word and to find out where this journey leads.