Going Solo, a Conference
On the initiative of Stephanie Booth, on May 16th a one-day conference for freelancers will take place in Lausanne in Switzerland. I would like to go, but already have family obligations elsewhere. The conference is called Going Solo.
The day focuses on what it actually takes to work as an independent, operating in a network of your peers. What it means to be independent in a connected world (which I have been calling interdependent since I started this blog)
Different people like Stephanie herself, our friend Martin Roell, the fun and challenging Stowe Boyd, and Suw Charman, will share their experiences. Since June last year on a little list for independent social software consultants in Europe we have been exchanging these experiences, and those have been very worthwile conversations. It helped me a lot in taking the step to going solo, as I did last month. So I am sure the conference will be worth a visit.1 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Thoughts on GTD System Weaknesses
Working with a Getting Things Done system in the past 9 months or so leads to a few thoughts I'd like to share.
Because it seems to me there is a systemic weakness in the concept of GTD. This does not mean GTD is not bringing me benefits, on the contrary. It does limit its scope of effectiveness though.
GTD, what it does
GTD is about making lists, more effective lists, to manage your time/life better.
The biggest benefit in GTD, as I understand it, is in not asking you to attach priorities or times to activities in your list, as time management systems generally do. It assumes that once you have good lists you will know what to do, based on time and energy available, as well as your own sense of urgency. This is a true diamond, as it trusts you to be human, and doesn't demand the conveyor belt mindless behaviour other time management systems ask for ("once you have the right list, you're on mindless autopilot")
The other big benefit of GTD is its multiple feedback loops. The short one, shared with other time management systems, informing you about tasks, and tasks that are waiting for someone else. The longer feedback loop(s), the reviews, allow you to step away from the task units, and look at your goals if they are still valid, and if your tasks still serve those goals. This helps you prevent to be running because you are busy, without knowing why you're busy and what it's all for. Doing good reviews (both back and forward looking, so review is a partly misleading term), and doing them regularly however is not easy.
GTD, what it does not
The biggest problem of GTD is that it is based on lists. Because list making is an old and time-honoured information strategy. GTD in essence says: if your inbox and the amount of tasks is growing and your life is getting more complicated make better lists.
That amounts to, when someone does not understand you, repeating yourself saying it LOUDER. In stead of choosing different words to convey your message. GTD is trying to apply the list making strategy better, in response to a failing list making strategy.
However when I see what I and others are trying to do with GTD it is navigating an increasingly fragmented and complex environment. The root causes are quantitative rises in the connections between people (small world), the speed of change (world becoming a metropole), and the amount of information (information abundance). The internet, and other preceding media, as infrastructure play a very big role in these quantitative shifts.
Quantitative changes, qualitative answers
These quantitative shifts are by necessity begetting qualitative answers, because conventional methods (like making lists) stop scaling. Web2.0 tools have some of those qualitative answers (active sharing and sense making, social relations as information filter, networks of meaning) as design principles. Other qualitative answers are becoming part of our information skills (pattern recognition, knowing when to stay focussed amidst distraction, knowledge as being connected/networked, learning as building networks).
I find I apply those qualitatively different information strategies before I can get to the level of things where GTD lists make sense. I hunt for patterns in my RSS feeds, and then those patterns become inbox items. The RSS feed items themselves are not suited to treat as inbox items, simply because the items themselves are not the relevent units of information for me.
I already have marked 90% of my incoming e-mail as read without reading them, before I get to seeing them as true inbox items that warrant a decision to respond to, put on my task list, send to someone else, or delete.
I also find that a very important piece of my work does not get affected by GTD at all: staying aware of my social network and context. Keeping track of the people I know and the communities I am part of is my premier source of learning, of landing projects, of bringing my goals closer, and it is all to a very large extent based on peripheral sense. It is based on not looking directly at it, nor on focussing on it, but glancing at it,. Like the way you keep track of what is happening in a pub by glancing around, while you are actually focussing on the conversation with the person in front of you. Or like the way in the dark you see more out of the corner of your eye, than right in front of you. Like with my RSS feeds this is pattern hunting. And only the patterns I find ever reach my inbox where I focus on them to decide what to do next. Tuning my antennas on my surroundings, and pro-actively define what type of patterns I am currently especially interested in also takes a large chunk of time and energy.
This creates a scope where GTD is effective but only after the problems caused by the size, fragmentation and speed of the world around me have already been dealt with using other strategies. GTD gives me very effective lists, but only after I have created a qualitatively better 'inbox' myself. GTD can deal with complicated stuff very well, but I have to deal with complexity myself first.
How GTD could be better
One way in which the GTD method could become more valuable is if I could get patterns from it about what I do, that became inbox items again. Another if I could shape my GTD reviews to help me tune my antennas for the peripheral vision better as I described above. Something to think about further
Medinge 2008 Brands With a Conscience Awards
Stockholm, Seal Beach, Calif. and Wellington, January 4 (JY&A Media) The Medinge Group, an international think-tank on branding and business, releases its ﬁfth annual Brands with a Conscience list. In the Group's opinion, these eight diverse organizations show that it is possible for brands to succeed as they contribute to the betterment of the society by sustainable, socially responsible and humanistic behaviour.
The international collective of brand practitioners meets annually in August at a secluded location outside Stockholm, Sweden, and collaborate on the list, judging nominees on principles of humanity and ethics, rather than ﬁnancial worth. The Brands with a Conscience list is shaped around criteria including evidence of the human implications of the brand and considering the question of whether the brand takes risks in line with its beliefs. Evaluations are made based on reputation, self-representation, history, direct experience, contacts with individuals within the organizations, media and analysts and an assessment of the expressed values of sustainability.
Last year, the group added a unique category commendation, the Colin Morley Award, recognizing exceptional achievement by an NGO. Mr Morley, a member of the Medinge Group, died in the London Underground bombings on July 7, 2005. The award commemorates his visionary work in humanistic branding.
For 2008, the group has singled out the following organizations:
Hennes & Mauritz
International Watch Co.
Pret a Manger
Dame Anita Roddick
and the 2008 Colin Morley Award for a non-governmental organization is given to Star School.
Announcing the 2008 Brands with a Conscience, Stanley Moss, CEO of the Medinge Group and chairman of the initiative, called them 'solid indications of the trend towards humanistic branding--this year's list shows a renewed interest in ethical conduct, accountability and outcome. The 2008 winners remind us that at their essence, brands are for people.'
'For the last four years, the Medinge Group has named Brands with a Conscience, forerunners to the social responsibility curve, long before the mass media came to champion their causes. This year's mixture of companies again represents those leading the way, including some who pushed the humanist agenda for years without recognition.
'The continued shift away from "branding-as-persuasion-to-buy" to "branding-as-how-we-improve-the-world"--with authentic, human considerations at the core of the organization--really gathers pace,' observed Tony Quinlan, a Medinge member. 'This year's award winners effectively counter the ridiculousness of the proﬁt-above-all approach which too many organizations take. Congratulations to such a diverse group, working in diverse sectors--all deserving of our praise and gratitude.'
I am pleased to spread the word on the brands we have selected this year. Ever since I joined the Medinge initiative, now 5 years ago, I have enjoyed the discussion and energy in this world wide group of people. It thoroughly changed my outlook on the role of branding, from a mere marketing perspective, to how a brand can be the focal point of energy for everything I think is crucial in true collaboration within organisations, and stakeholder networks. For me knowledge and change management and branding overlap greatly. Acknowledging those organisations for whom their brand is the expression of how they see themselves as part of society, where the bottom-line is not the only and unique yard stick to measure success, seems therefore a logical extension of my vision on knowledge work, innovation and learning in a globally networked world.
The awards ceremony will take place in Paris next month, where I will look forward to not only meet this years award winners, but also my fellow Medingites again.1 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
World Wide Paperwork and Administrivia Day (WoWiPAD)
Stephanie Booth came up with WoWiPAD, which is how I (and Elmine as well) will spend our day:
So, another of these "get-together" initiatives I'm launching is the World Wide Paperwork and Administrivia Day, which we'll call WoWiPAD from now on. Unless you're super-organised or are already a GTD black belt, you probably have piles of receipts to sort, papers to file, expenses to invoice, forms to fill in, and various administrative things that just pile up and don't get done, because, let's face it, it's way more fun to be earning $$ doing exciting stuff with clients than spending the day drowning in stuffy papers alone at one's desk. (See her blogposting on WoWiPAD)
We're with ten people, virtually connected (via Facebook), working away the piles of paperwork that have slowly gathered on our desks, and other flat surfaces that would look much better cleared.
As I am starting on my own this year, today is also the day I will create my own bookkeeping system (My bookkeeping training from years back now comes in handy), as well as write my very first invoice.
I'll publish a photo, once the office has become presentable again ;)
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