Yesterday I attended #1pound40, courtesy of Thomson Reuters and Amplified. Naturally, it was very informative, lots of fun, introduced me to some wonderful thinkers, and gave me an opportunity to see people from the London Twitter scene that I’ve been getting to know better. And, of course, there was some great discussion that really got me thinking, which is what I want to talk about today.
The first thing to address is the medium. This ‘curated unconference’ ran as follows: 80 or so of us get into a room, and sit at one of many tables, inevitably with 5 or so other people that you already know. Then someone talks for 5 minutes on a subject, after which we, the participants, not attendees/delegates/audience, discuss and debate the subject, each person around the table adding their point of view and experiences.
Result: I got a lot more out of this than a traditional conference. Why? Because we formed an answer, together, through the combined knowledge of every person at that table. Each person brought unique experience that the others hadn’t had, angles and views that the others didn’t have, and criticisms that the others hadn’t come across. When someone delivers a keynote, we rightly place value on that one person, but consequently only get one, albeit very well formed, opinion. This model is person-to-people, a delivery of an expert to a crowd. But yesterday’s model was truly one of people-to-people. Sure, some would guide the conversation more than others, but then in the next session, and as we moved around from table to table, others had expertise where others did not. As far as value goes, there was loads of it. Moving on…
A person-to-people model is necessary where a person of greater expertise addresses a large crowd of people with lesser expertise, and disseminates information through inspiration, education, story-telling, whatever. But in this emerging field of Social Business, where the guidelines are still being written, anyone who is doing Social Business is finding out what the way forward is in the context in which they are working. It is the people-to-people method I experienced at #1pound40 that far better serves the dissemination of information: sharing experience on a level playing field where every practitioner is adding their truly unique value, no matter if it’s Corporate, Charity or Church – because none of us yet have the complete picture, and by sharing we get a better, more integrated view of what it is.
I’m not articulating this well, I know, and I need your help to flesh this out. There’s also some other things I noticed about the day, in regards to guiding through people-to-people, and not governing by person-to-people, which actually relate to Twitter’s growth as an eco-system with unspoken community-made rules. It all focusses on what I have been blogging about regarding the shift from governance to guidance. My first thoughts are:
1. Guidance first of all requires leadership. #1pound40 required event organisers and Twitter required it’s founders. There has to be leadership, otherwise the people would never get together. I spoke about this in a discussion on Uniting People Around A Platform.
2. Guidance requires passion. Let’s get something clear right away, guidance doesn’t motivate through finances, so it requires a lot of strength and potency to get going, which are the natural byproducts of passion. No passion lacking yesterday, or on Twitter. In fact, Twitter is fuelled by passion. Passion means there is not a job’s worth mentality towards guidance. It could be late at night and you’re tired, but because of passion, you’re guiding others.
3. Guidance requires influencers. It’s not enough to have vision or passion – there must be the influencers and translators who bring their followings to the table. Case in point: @ilico invited me to #1pound40 and @andjdavies got me on Twitter – in neither case did the leaders/founders come and personally invite me. Obvious, but needs to be said. Otherwise, we experience burnout by trying to personally guide everybody. Doesn’t work.
4. Individual engagement encourages equality. It’s not enough to say that everyone has equal right to pitch in, you have to show it. This requires a smaller group size, at some point, to ensure people are individually engaged. In a big room, people get lost, and there is not the mechanism for everyone’s voice to potentially be heard. The whole setup of yesterday was geared towards this, and as for Twitter, the first ‘feature’ that the community made was the ability to @ someone, making the tweet individually engaging. Once people are individually engaged, they start engaging others, and together they create culture. Then:
5. Influencers canonise culture. I watched yesterday as the influencers in the room helped facilitate discussion. In any group, some brought great ideas, other’s had very strong opinions, still some had powerful experiences, and others silently waited to the prime moment to bring their niche of expertise in. But it was the influencers who helped draw the conclusions. They were often the ones who brought the conversation back to focus – not with authority, but gently guiding it back after the person had had their say. Whatever came up in discussion, it was the influencer who canonised it into a simple meaning. When it comes to Twitter, the same happened. The culture of retweeting, hashtags, #followfriday, the anti hard-sell sentiment and anti auto-DM sentiment – it was the influencers who took the culture that was rising from the tweets and canonised it into a repeatable and standardised format.
I remember watching a documentary about a group of deaf children in a remote European village who had formed their own sign language. It was an engrossing watch, as they dissected the concepts at work that had literally made a language from nothing. What they found was this: an influencer was canonising the culture. There was this one girl who took the different new pieces of sign language that came from the kids, and then she used the ones that seemed to be more adoptable for the whole group, and canonised them. I realised yesterday that any growing ecosystem is the same.
6. The many moderate. There weren’t any instances of this yesterday, but taking wikipedia as a case study, the fear that many people would ruin the content was never actualised. In actual fact, the many moderated. The startup strength I spoke about in point 2 is needed for this. It would appear that under guidance, as opposed to governance, there is an open contract that participants subscribe to and this creates accountability. In other words, people feel accountable for both their own actions and the actions of others, and therefore they moderate. From what I understand, this is because the reward is greater under guidance than it is under governance – as well as the consequence of making a public failure which causes public embarrassment (even if no one around you is at all judgmental, you still don’t want to let them down).
7. Collaboration starts big, becomes small, and then becomes bigger. Vision is pitched to everyone. Everyone takes this away and in a smaller setting where there can be individual engagement, equality is in action, and the collaboration grows as knowledge is shared, people become more confident, and ideas are refined. With greater confidence and clarity, either the group can ‘report back’, groups can be merged, or the groups can just become bigger. At this point, even if one person now reports back on behalf of the group, all the voices are contained within the report.
8. There must be the potential for any person to become the focus. Everyone must know that their voice matters, and that if they want to speak up, their voice will be heard. Taking this further, knowing that their ideas could be taken and brought before the whole crowd reaffirms equality. I know this may sound silly, but I really got the feeling yesterday that at any point, if I had a really great insight, I’d end up on stage sharing it. It’s the same with Twitter – potentially, anyone could start a meme that goes all around the Twitterverse – and this makes things feel potentially equal. This is mostly a feeling, and seldom a reality, but a very important feeling at that.
9. Encouragement. Another obvious point that’s not often done, but yesterday I saw it over and over again. I’ll just be real: there were people there yesterday (and you know the type), who are wonderful people with ideas that they massively overestimate the importance of, because it is such a revelation to themselves. Hey, I’m often one of these people. But what I saw yesterday was that this type of person was continually encouraged by the influencers at the tables even when the ideas were either very paediatric or off target. I’ve experienced the same on Twitter – I remember when I was first retweeted and was so thrilled that I was shouting about it – to which someone replied with congratulations. Like wise someone else said that there tweets weren’t getting much attention, but as soon as she tweeted that she felt that way, immediately people encouraged here.
10. Build legacy in phases. Guidance means documenting the efforts of the people, firstly because it was by them and they deserve the credit, and secondly, because people can point to it and refer back to it as both a mark of success, and a resource for the future. This can’t be just the comments left in a hashtag – this has to be like what we did with Like Minds 09, where we linked to every blog post about us, have the video and photos right up there, and display some of the best tweets. Creating this legacy provides momentum for the future as it ties up the end of one ‘guidance’, celebrates it, and documents the success that it was. By finishing in phases, we get a boast from each success that gives us energy to guide the next phase.
Well, I know that for many people, there’s nothing new here, and I’m sure people have done far better jobs of identifying them than I have – if you know of them, point me to them.
This, for me, is a starting point for outlining the collaboration that we’ll be guiding for Like Minds 2010 in February. Whilst, because of our mix of audience between practitioners and freshers, there will be some person-to-people, there will also be people-to-people, both on the day, but more importantly, in the lead up. The thing I think #1pound40 is missing is the conversion of this thought-collaboration into collaborative action – we have shared all this discussion together, created friendship, but are not being guided from friendship to fellowship around a cause. So that’s what I’m thinking about for the time leading up to February.
Anyway, enough of me. I’m really keen to hear what ya’ll have to say…