So I came across this article on innovation that links to this other article that mentions these 6 paradoxes of innovation (scroll down). They resonated. Esp w regard to Virtually Connecting – which I consider to be a really simple thing that seems like an innovation. We just use free Google hangouts on Air to connect ppl virtually with others attending conferences. And we chat. And for some reason people onsite seem to enjoy it so it’s not just the folks virtually participating who wanna be there. As we expand, I reflect a lot on my own and with our growing team of over 30 volunteers on what it means to do what we do and how we can do it both better (quality wise) and more efficiently (so we don’t all get burn out and lose the fun of it). So these 6 paradoxes seemed helpful to frame some of my scattered thinking. This is just a personal brainstorming thing which is why I am publishing it here not on the VC blog.
So the 6 Paradoxes:
1. Affirming the individual…and the group
This one seems obvious but is also hard. One of the things we have been hoping to prove was that the experiment was NOT Maha/Rebecca centric. We kinda did prove it and didn’t. I think we proved it’s not just me or Rebecca or our relationship coz we have a big team that carries things on without us. For example, we had our first Australian conference coverage. Wendy Taleo spearheaded this almost totally on her own and Penny Bentley jumped in and offered to do her first onsite buddy experience. A lot of the success of something like that has to do with the passion and enthusiasm of someone like Wendy and Penny and support from Helen De Waard and the willingness of onsite guests to participate and others virtually to join in and talk to them. A lot of it relates to the personalities of each of these people. And their relationships with each other. So while you can have hangouts between people who don’t know each other at all, you can see more harmony when they have at least hung out for a bit before, whether the onsite/virtual buddy pair, or the onsite guest and buddy. You can tell when people are comfortable with each other. The group aspect is important coz having the Slack group helps build a little of those relationships in a supportive community . Those active in Slack get to know each other and find each other a bit more easily than a looser network would have been. And makes it easier for someone to step in when another cannot make it.
2. Supporting…and confronting
This one is interesting because I don’t think we do enough of the second because we try to focus on the first but I realize we need to confront issues more head-on when they come. We aren’t perfect. Things can annoy other people or things can go wrong coz of something one of us did. We are trying to figure out how best to handle this, given that everyone is a volunteer.
3. Fostering experimentation and learning…and performance
This is really important. We change things up every time we do this and more people means more ideas. So each iteration someone does something interesting and we try it. Sometimes it works sometimes not – so I think we foster experimentation that aims to produce better performance – we try it, reflect, then decide whether to keep doing it. Something was off with how #dlrn15 was organized and we’re still trying to figure out what it was. Some really smart ideas happened in the last Educause conf vc (Alan and Autumm embedded the watch links in the blog announcement; there were people onsite who kept dropping in which was more fun than the quiet closed room we had at dlrn which we thought we wanted)
4. Promoting improvisation…and structure
For some time we were all about chaos and improv. As we grew and Autumm joined and we started using Slack we became more organized. We have tempates! We r thinking we need a written process so nothing falls thru the cracks. But we still have room for all kinds of spontaneous. Just that some structure to handle the logistics frees everyone up for the fun stuff. I think!
5. Showing patience…and urgency
I don’t know how to explain this one but it’s my personal paradox. I think I treat a lot of things like that. I think I probably intend to be patient w others but urgent w mysrlf but may end up doing the opposite by being urgent w others and putting pressure. Be good to keep that in mind.
6. Encouraging bottom-up initiative…and intervening top-down
This is an interesting one. I don’t necessarily think there are bottoms and tops but of course Rebecca and I are co-founders and not everyone has admin access to everything so it’s not completely flat. Nor do I think everyone would want to have admin access to everything. But everyone who is doing something has enough leeway to take initiative. I personally will always intervene a litte just to make sure the person feels supported and to see if I can help… But pull back once everyone seems settled. But if something goes wrong, I am ready to step in and figure out how to handle it.