Monday, January 28, 2013

Don't waste your effort helping people achieve something unless they want it

I've been lucky enough to be involved in some fantastic projects in the last year, like Collaboratory Melbourne, Collaborate to Innovate and Our World Today.  I've had great experiences.  But a lot of the time, it hasn't felt like I've achieved anything.

I have learnt that transformation relies upon the use of potential energy.  Enabling people, helping them realise their potential, instead of doing things for them.  Things they want to do - rather than what you want them to do.

Sometimes I haven't been able to take a step back and realise that the 'help' I've wanted to provide is really just an expression of my own desire. Most of the time people will nod and agree - perhaps with some enthusiasm, and often with a degree of gratitude.  But that's not enough.

On one hand, where my help is for something to get done, then I should go do it.  There's nothing wrong with taking the initiative.  Ask people to make sure it's okay with them, sure - but if it needs doing, then I can't dally around expecting people to get on board.  My desire is mine to take responsibility for, irrespective of who it's good for.

I've found myself much more inclined to be direct like this lately.  Probably out of impatience more than anything else.  It feels liberating, and things feel easier.  It actually seems easier to involve others - people helping me, instead of me helping them.  There's a paradox to navigate, but the direction is clear nevertheless.

On the other hand, where my help is actually for another person to do something, then I shouldn't expect it to be of any use unless they want to.  If there's no energy there, if they don't feel the need, then the best informed and best intentioned advice is a waste of time.  Sure, if I'm specific enough then they might do it.  But when they need to digest it and make a decision on it, chances are it won't go any further.

I gave a lot of great, gratefully accepted advice last year.  Most of it was useless.  Useless because I didn't really understand where the unmet needs and energy lay, so that I could actually help others achieve what they wanted to do.

Hence today's lesson - if people don't want something that I do, I should stop wasting energy trying to 'help' them to do it.  It's really not helping them at all.

Boo for all my well-intentioned, wasted energy.  Here's to taking the lesson on board.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Simple steps for leading collaborative initiatives

It was one of those dark and stormy, sleepless nights.  Ideas racing at a million miles an hour, and my last post churning around in the back of my mind.  Out popped a few simple steps for collaborative projects.

My inclination has been to talk, ask about issues, seek collaborators, try to find common ground, and develop practices for collaborative action.  Things have gone slowly.  These new steps are a bit different.

  1. ! Do
  2. - Invite
  3. > Develop
  4. \/  Evolve

! Do  -  what you can

Don't get caught up planning things for others to do.  And don't stress yourself stretching beyond your own capacity.

Don't worry too much about waiting to get everyone on board first - this can come later.

'You' does not need to be you individually, but if the initiative doesn't resonate really strongly initially, don't expend energy trying to get people to partner with you.

- Invite  -  specific opportunities

Make specific invitations for modest opportunities to collaborate, and general invitations to participate (with a specific 'opt in' attached).  Don't push too hard, don't expect big leaps from collaborators, and don't be afraid to tell it how it is to get the job done in the early days.

> Develop  -  deeper engagement

As the project matures, interest grows and collaborators are more familiar, gradually enable deeper engagement in the project.

Most collaborative initiatives seem to get stuck with a few key organisers, and a host of others whose keenness grows... only to whither as they don't have opportunities to move beyond relatively minor engagement

\/ Evolve  -  roles and project

It will be possible to evolve to a more collaborative partnership only as others gradually develop deeper engagement.  The roles of participants, and the nature of the project itself, will need to evolve to better reflect the energy and resources of the community.

You really need to step back and accept that it's not 'yours' anymore.

I initially sketched this post way back in January.  I'm pleased to confirm the Simple Four Step is working pretty well so far in 2013!  A few small collaborative initiatives here at the Majoran Distillery are coming along well, and CoCreate Adelaide is taking on real momentum.

I'm going to claim it validated.  Bam.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A more reflective, personal turn

The blog has been fairly quiet the last six months.  There are too many different things I could write about, and I have no compelling case to write about any one of them, especially given my modest readership.

This blog was initially a way to engage with friends about what I was up, where individual conversations were impractical.  Many of my posts have let my friends know I write about things that are 'interesting' - but of little interest to them.  However, without a specialist readership to replace them I've mostly been writing for me.

2013 will see me setting up a business, and a collaborative book project.  I can write more in-depth, topic specific posts in conjunction with these.  Guest blogging may also be a way to share niche thoughts.

A friend's post reminded me the other day about the value of regular reflection in the development or practice.  So for this blog - I'm going to do that.

First step: reflect on blogging experience.