Something to aspire to

A few years ago Elmine and I wrote a short e-book on how to organize an unconference as a birthday party (PDF linked on the right). Since then I’ve regularly entertained the idea of writing another e-book, but that never really happened. While I do have some topics I’d like to write about, I find my knowledge of those topics still too limited to be able to come up with a narrative to share anything worthwile. There are also doubts (fears?) about what type of things would have a potential readership

So this week I decided to ask:

What would you like to see me write more or more extensively about?

Already I got a range of responses, and it is an intriguing list. Some suggestions are about aspects of my own journey, others are about topics that I don’t know much (or anything) about, but where apparantly there’s interest in my take on it. Some come close to topics I already want to write more about, but feel I haven’t found an angle yet.

Here’s the list until now. More suggestions and thoughts are welcome.

  • Optimal unfamiliarity (a phrase I coined in 2004 initially to describe what mix of people make a great event audience to be part of, but has become a design principle in how I try to collect information and learn.), suggested by Piers Young
  • An epistolary travel log novella (something that could arise from my 14 years of blogging about my travels and work), suggested by Georges Labreche
  • Open currencies (which Google tells me they have no meaningful results for, but which connects to my experience with LETS, and chimes with free currencies in p2p networks), suggested by Pedro Custodio
  • Moderating sessions with a mix of analog and digital tools (closely connected to my thoughts about fruitful information strategies in social contexts), suggested by Oliver Gassner
  • Fatherhood (as I became one 9 weeks ago, but I don’t think 9 weeks counts as experience), suggested by Dries Krens
  • Motivating others to act on open data (a large chunk of my work), suggested by Gerrit Eicker
  • Being a European in the digital age (which I strongly claim to be), suggest by Alipasha Foroughi
  • Convincing profit oriented organisations of the value of open access and responsible research (comes close to Gerrit’s point), suggested by Johnny Søraker
  • How and why I left my job (being employed by Dries mentioned above), suggested by Rob Paterson
  • The journey from my involvement in knowledge management and early blogging, to where I am now, and how it impacted the way Elmine and I arrange our lives (lots to unpack here!), suggested by Jon Husband (who, like Rob Paterson, has been part and witness of that journey over many years)
  • The proliferation of means of communication versus the quality of communication (for me this points to information strategies on focus, filtering etc.), suggested by Jos Eikhout
  • Personal information strategies and processes using open source tools (something I blogged often about in various shapes and forms), suggested by Terry Frazier, a fellow blogger on knowledge management back when I started blogging in 2002

Looking at who responded is already in a way a manifestation of some of the suggested topics (the journey, the information strategies, the optimal unfamiliarity, facilitating communities).

I can’t promise I’ll write about all of the things suggested, but I appreciate the breadth and scope of this list and the feedback I can unpack from it. More suggestions are very welcome.

During our session on Reboot 9, we started out with laying out the basic model.
This model consists of six ‘core nodes’ of factors that play a role in owning your learning path. (as shown in the illustration below)

For each of those six nodes we put up a sheet of paper to collect post-it notes on.
For the first part of the session it was interesting to see that most of the discussion and the captured thoughts and observations ended up on the ‘Having a Supportive Environment’ sheet. We were listing barriers in our environment basically, talking about the education system, the organisation we work in etc.
Only when George Por made a very useful intervention by asking us all to stop playing the blame game, post-its appeared in larger numbers on the other sheets.
This pattern strikes me as very relevant.

Especially as I see it happen time and again in other settings as well, particularly in discussions around (organizational) goal setting.
On the one end of the spectrum you have the archetypical argument that ‘we are/I am too small to change the system’. On the other end of the spectrum you find the archtypical argument that ‘I/we could change this, if only all other stakeholders would accept our/my authority’. Both are a fig leaf for inaction. They are based on the notion that you need control to be able to reach your goals.

What these arguments do is ignore the large space in the middle of the spectrum: your area of influence. In this area you don’t have control (at least not all the time, over all the relevant issues, and in all contexts), but you have influence (and control during short bursts of time over some issues in some contexts).

So instead of magnifying our problems/goals to the extend they become too big for us, or stating total control over our peers/stakeholders as a prerequisite for our ability to act, we need to focus on what steps can be taking now, in collaboration with willing others, or regardless of others. Without doing away with far reaching goals, high ambitions, or lofty values. (In essence this is what systems like GTD are doing for you as well)

In this area of influence we can feel in control enough to get moving, and take uncertainty about the results as a given at the same time. Our area of influence is where we can achieve flow, where we can make small steps towards a larger outcome.
In terms of owning your learning path this means that you don’t have to wait for the educational system to change, or for organizations to start behaving differently. You can own your learning path, within the educational system, and within traditional organizations. As long as you don’t let ‘them’ unilaterally set your goals.

I’ve taught a horse to ride a bicycle (street art in Enschede, April ’07)

On day 2 of the Reboot conference Elmine Wijnia and I hosted a conversation session around the topic ‘Owning Your Own Learning Path’. We graciously got two timeslots for this, and we enjoyed the beautiful weather in Copenhagen by doing the session outside on the grass in front of Kedelhallen.

We introduced the session on the Reboot site like this:
What does it take to be the owner of your own learning path, so that you can reach your goals?
And if we can say something useful about that learning path, does that give us the means to pro-actively shape the social software tools that give us the affordances we need?

During the session we started out with our rudimentary model, that we created in cooperation with Valeri Souchkov (also see my previous posting on this) The good comments we got on our proposal at the Reboot site got incorporated into our session, by mapping them on our model as examples.

Click the picture to see an annotated version of this model.

The transcripts of the post-it notes that we created during the session, and sorted along the lines of our model are now on-line.
If you have been at the session, please add your name to the list on the above link if you’re not already mentioned there.

photo by Jonathan Marks (originally licensed Creative Commons in 2007, but now listed as all rights reserved).

This posting is just to announce that the post-its have been transcribed. I will write more about the session itself.