Reading for Leading #2: Going long

Going long

Next time you’re frustrated you can’t explore something in more detail, “go long”.
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How many times in a given day or week do you and your team members think “I wish I could dive a little deeper into this topic, problem or new tool – but I just don’t have time right now.”?

Next time that happens, pick up a post-it note or scrap of paper, note down the item and then put it away somewhere. Perhaps stick the post-its onto a plain sheet of paper in the corner of your office, or post the scraps of paper into an empty tissue box on your desk – whatever works for you. You can do this electronically too, if you prefer – maybe using a Trello board and making cards for each new item that crops up. But no browsing when you post the new items! Simply file and forget.

Next, block out 90 mins in your calendar at some point within the next month. When that time arrives, empty out the box, pull down the paper covered in post-its or re-open the Trello board and pick something that calls you. Then spend the 90 mins exploring it.

You can either do this alone or as a team exercise. How does this work out?

Source of inspiration: Janice Marturano’s “Finding the space to lead”

Social intelligence – and what’s missing in online interactions on social media

Social intelligence is the ability to navigate complex social relationships and environments – something key to being a successful community manager or facilitator. However, on reading recently about some of the components of social intelligence proposed by Dan Goleman it struck me how poorly we optimise for many of them on social media.

Goleman proposes that there are two broad categories of skills that comprise social intelligence – those of social awareness and those of social facility. Social awareness includes paying attention to others so that we develop empathy, attunement and cognition, whereas social facility is about how we regulate our own interactions with others – including how we present ourselves and exert influence.

Could some of the problems that we’re seeing with anti-social behaviour online be attributed to two related issues? 1) Platforms being better optimised for social facility traits and 2) Technical limitations that seriously restrict social awareness online. I unpack these ideas in this post.

Nerd, dork, geek or dweeb? Where do you sit in the Venn diagram?
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Reading for Leading #1: Illuminate the marginalia

Illuminate the marginalia

What’s going on in your marginalia of your meeting? Are you fighting demons or playing pranks?
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Next time you’re sat in a meeting and find yourself disengaging from the conversation, instead of reaching for your phone, your inbox or a daydream, try to determine what the script and accompanying director’s notes are for your character at this point.

Are you silently having a different conversation to the one that’s actually taking place in the room? Maybe you’re re-enacting last month’s meeting which left you feeling road-blocked. Is there something going unsaid that maybe needs for you to suggest a one-to-one check in with someone in the room – or even for you to be brave and speak out while everyone is still in it?

Taking time to examine the marginalia around the edges of your current script could tell you a lot about why this particular scene isn’t working out for you today – and what you can do to address it.


Source of inspiration: Mental models chapter of “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge.



Introducing “Reading for Leading” – Monday morning pithy prompts

Want to be a less robotic, more connected leader? Image credit:

Recently I’ve been thinking about the balance between consumption and creation or synthesis. And while I’ve been enjoying translating some of my thoughts into blog posts once again, there have been many more ideas shared at events, and in books, papers and podcasts than I’m ever going to convert into full-length posts.

However, exploring ideas doesn’t always have to go long form!

Two examples: Seth Godin’s daily blog posts are one of my favourite reads – little nuggets of marketing and management inspiration, they’re often a good prompt to stop and rethink your project work. Likewise, I’ve enjoyed exploring Zen koans over the years – short pithy phrases that you reflect on for a period of time in order to distill their wisdom for yourself.

And so I’m going to combine bits of both to create a new series of short posts every Monday morning – “reading for leading“. Each post will share a question, a tip, a definition or something else to ponder as you start your week. I hope you enjoy these small, straight doses of inspiration on the topic of modern leadership.

URLs of wisdom – 16th July 2017

URLs of wisdom is a round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology. 

From social in silico 

Recently I’ve shared the following new posts:

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Emergence in communities – from quorum sensing in bacteria to human cohorts

I got into an interesting conversation recently at a conference about what “emergence” looks like in practice. It’s one of those words that’s being increasingly used to describe the power of communities to self-organise (e.g. “emergence over authority” is one of the chapters of Whiplash by Joi Ito of Media Lab). And yet I hadn’t fully appreciated how emergence plays out in groups. At least, until I realised that emergence is what I was working on as a graduate student – without ever describing it in those terms.

My biochemistry research focused on quorum sensing in bacteria – a mechanism by which a group of bacteria of the same species coordinate to produce a compound at high population density that’s not seen when the same bugs exist at a lower density. The specific compound produced varies with the type of bacteria – sometimes it’s a pigment, others an antibiotic, or a specific set of enzymes. But essentially, quorum sensing is about how bacteria communicate as a group to decide when to make this population-dependent chemical. So I often joke that my interests in collaborative behaviour took the long route from studying uni-cellular organisms to multi-cellular ones! 

Emergence in bacteria – a lightbulb moment!
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What does community mean when we focus on personal identity online?

Did anyone else see this article in The Atlantic that asks “What is community”? It explores what community comes to mean if we focus on personal identity – in politics, online and in our relationships:

“….Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter and Snapchat and their many fellow services emphasizes identity through a combination of consumption and performance: On Facebook, for example, one’s favorite music and one’s favorite news sites and the memes and jokes one shares suggest, in the aggregate, not just what they like, but who they are.”

I’d argue that things are a bit more nuanced than that – sharing of information in the right context can lead new connections, and that it’s only by revealing something of ourselves that we are able to build meaningful relationships to others. The detrimental effects of focusing on identity seem to come when we hold identity as a rigid, immutable concept, instead of one that it able to change based on new knowledge and experiences.

What do you think? Do we have spaces online where identity can be more fluid? What is the role of the community manager in issues of identity? How would you define community?