Thursday, 20 March 2014

Talking Ted - The Presentation, The Idea, The Introvert, The Leader & Some SOLE

In my last post I highlighted how an idea pitched in a slightly different way can be the difference between a good idea that takes off and one that doesn't. 

Ted2014 is on at the moment and I have drawn a great deal of inspiration and confidence from Ted Talks. It would be a long list if I were to included my favorite talks, but there are some that had a lasting impression on me;

The Secret Structure of Great Talks - Nancy Duarte
Where Good Ideas Come From - Steven Johnston
The Power of the Introvert - Susan Cain
Tribal Leadership - Dave Logan

Hole in the Wall and School in the Cloud - Suguta Mitra

I think it would be so cool to come up with a game-changing idea that would secure an invite to present at Ted! Today I want to talk about whether or not ideas get adopted or ignored, not because of whether the idea is good or the way its presented... but depending on who delivers the message?

In my last post I highlighted how important Duarte's advice about the way that ideas are presented... which really does matter!

I think that Steven Johnson's talk compliments Duarte's really well as he tells us how "An idea is a network." I try to take Johnson's advice by looking in a diverse range of places for "slow hunches" or new ideas, and try to figure out if/how they could be applied to Further Education. I love
 Johnson's closing comment "Chance favours the connected mind." I also consider meta data by trawling through some monster spreadsheets, whcih is something that I cover in this "Mining Data....Nuggets of Gold & Pearls of Wisdom" post

Where Good Ideas Come from... And When they are Not Heard.
I've touched on introverts in the past but Susan Cain's Talk and book had a big impact on me, it helped to explain (and gave permission for) some of my personality traits. Here is one of my faviourite extracts from her book; 

"If you're an introvert, find your flow using your gifts. You have the power of persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and the clear sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up. You enjoy relative freedom from the temptations of superficial prizes like money and status. Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths.You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you're focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.

So stay true to your own nature. if you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don't let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don't force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multitasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you and incalculable power to go your own way. It's up to you to use that independence to good effect.

Of course, that isn't always easy. Jack Welch wrote an article called "Release Your Inner Extrovert," where he called for introverts sometimes need to act more extroverted on the job. Cain suggested that extroverts sometimes need to act more introverted, too, and suggested that Wall Street might have benefited from having more introverts at the helm. Welch was intrigued. But, he said, "The extroverts would argue that they never heard from the introverts."

Welch makes a fair point. Introverts need to trust their gut and share their ideas as powerfully as they can. This does not mean aping extroverts; ideas can be shared quietly, they can be communicated in writing, they can be packaged into highly produced lectures, they can be advanced by allies. The trick for introverts is to honour their own styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms."

I identify with this, and my prefered way to disseminate any ideas I have is to try to have them "advanced by allies."

I have had roles where I managed people in the past, with mixed results - some good; some not so good, and the experience was never an enjoyable one. There was no training for these positions, so found myself mirroring what I saw in the organisation which were extroverted ways of doing things. As this was neither enjoyable nor effective I shied away from managing teams... until I found Tribal Leadership. This provided models where I could lead with my strengths - not by pretending to be something I'm not. 

Where Good Ideas Come From... And When they are not Heard
So lots learned from these Ted Talks! However there may be one other issue, my background. I started out in sales and can find myself wondering how people perceive my actions any time I bang on about an idea or initiative. If I am trying to drum up some enthusiasm for a good idea could this be perceived as "blatant self promotion from a sales guy." We know that presentation matters, but what about context?

Joshua Bell, the world-famous violinist, is in demand he fills the house at Washington's Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But as part of an experiment on a random Friday Joshua Bell was just another busker, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

Bell went busking at Washington's subway system during rush hour, with his violin case open in front of him. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

Ted Prize - The City 2.0

Sugata Mitra presented at the Digifest14 conference last week, who won the "The City 2.0" Ted Prize in 2012. I submitted an application for the Ted Prize which was;

"My wish is that we develop an education system where there are no class boundaries (either barrier to access or being made to feel inferior once in the classroom), Where those in the room want to learn, where they are exposed to only the most passionate, inspiring and knowledgeable teachers.

Have the top teachers in their field and year group beamed that into classrooms across the country, each student would have a tablet to be able to interact with the teacher and answer questions etc.

There would be staff in each class to assist with questions and practical assignments and to offer individual encouragement. These assistants would be based on the assistant who were in attendance for the “Hole in the Wall Project”

This could mean that the limited number of people who currently enjoy the experience of could be rolled out to reach a larger audience"

I was delighted and excited to hear about Sugata Mitra's Self Organised Learning Environment. I don't think that it would be delusional if I was to say that an idea that I submitted for the Ted Prize wasn't a million miles off Mitra's idea, here's my 2012 Ted Prize application - Ted Prize: Putting Star Educators on the Big Screen

Learning From Ted
So have I learned anything from the Ted Talks mentioned above?
  • I try to have a "networked mind"; so know that I can have some good ideas from time to time. 
  • I am an introvert so can struggle to make myself heard; A few good ideas have gone unnoticed (More details in next post)
  • I realise that I am a "recovering sales person"; so try not to draw too much attention to myself
  • It's one thing to have a great idea; it's another thing to articulate the idea well
    These points can be seen in my Ted Prize application - there was the basis of a good idea which was the result of making connections with different ideas, but there was a poor and unsure presentation which stemmed from the thought of;

    "Whose going to listen to some random sales guys' idea... Why am I even submitting this idea? It's ridiculous!" 

    This mindset led to an over-explanation of how I came up with the idea which, in turn, led to a rather poor presentation.

    Learning From the Past
    I mention this not just because Ted 2014 is on this week, but also in an attempt to prevent my current ideas being overlooked. I have been blogging and Tweeting a lot since the FELTAG agenda has gained momentum. I have tried to temper my enthusiasm for the subject and my ideas with not being a "Hashtag Hijacker" but, at the same time, as the Joshua Bell example demonstrates the location of an idea could mean that people walk right past the person and their suggestions.

    I have ideas that I am confident that they have the potential to make a difference. 

    So what am I going to do? Do as Welch suggests and go all 
    extroverted and shout & scream about them? 

    While I'm more confident in my ideas, I am still an introvert, I still lack any kind of official standing within the FE sector, I still have a background in sales and (as a "pre-revenue startup") the only resources I have is an internet connection.

    It sure does provide a great deal of frustration, especially when you are operating in a sector where new ideas can take months to be considered, so I'm not sure what I will do. I'm not sure what I can do... but I'll think of something

    In the mean time, I have seen a few FELTAG based events where people are talking about the need for early adopters etc. Then you look at the demographics of the delegates - mostly over 40's senior managers, some of whom may never have heard of some of the tools that will be the future of education... never mind actually used them before. If there is one thing that other industries have taught us, its that senior managers are not necessarily the best people to assess new and emerging ideas... especially when it comes to technology and creative disruption. 

    Emerging technology just might be something that the youngest member of staff might know more about, regardless of pay grade, job title or department they work in. 

    How many people are there who, just like Washington commuters did with Joshua Bell, walk past people in their organisation every day without noticing their ideas or talents? How many great ideas do they have which go unnoticed? You just might be surprised about where good ideas come from... 

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