Monday, 20 June 2016

Extreme, Radical Collaboration... But Beware of the Poseurs

Have fun, while getting s**t done! 

Is how I would describe my professional goals at the moment, which is a surprisingly accurate and succinct statement for me... But I sure have taken the long way round to know what to look for in order to achieve this goal.

In this post i'm going to talk about my week and end it with an extract from Nolan Bushnell's book "Finding the Next Steve Jobs" any links that people want to make about my week in relation to this extract is entirely up to them. Anyone who is interested in some extreme radical collaboration, here's where you can find me and a group of like minded change agents:
I'm in London and have just heard the formidable start up lady Ramona Pierson present at The Indie Summit before catching up with Declara's COO, Debra Chrapaty, and Vice President, James Stanbridge... I've just met the senior team at a hot shot Silicon Valley startup! How cool!

I regularly tell my kids that they can do anything they set their mind to and to find their place in the world. Six years ago I vowed to never again to work on any projects where the culture, sales tactics or products were questionable, and set my sights on collaborating with people like Ramona, Debra and James, so this meeting was a big deal for me.

Over the last few years I've tried to discuss some of the ideas we discussed on Friday with various groups. I can't tell you how confusing it has been that these groups constantly talked about the need for collaboration but their version is one that I just can't get a handle on... which has all been rather confusing.

Startup Lady
While I've watched and shared Ramona's Ted Talk "An Unexpected Place of Healing" a number of times it was fantastic to hear her story live. Here are some of the things that particularly stood out for me:

Ramona opened her presentation by telling the audience there were three things that she hoped we'd take away from her talk:

1) Be a Risk Taker
2) Be an Innovator
3) Be a Life Long Learner

Ramona then detailed how troublesome she was as a student, one teacher telling her not to come back to class until she's ran for 3 hours... or her hilarious observation that she didn't know that she was good at maths because she was constantly kicked out of class.

"Innovators are great at coming up with ideas, but can suck at communicating them... You [#TheIndieSummit attendees] are putting forward the message for things that people don't understand yet" Ramona Pierson

Ramona then talked about the people who saved her life, the bystander who took an old innovation a pen and used it in an innovative way to help her breathe when she was hit by a drunk driver.

The Doctor who risked his medical licence and career by keeping her in a medically induced coma for longer than the recommended duration at the time.

Eventually the hospital gave up on her and she was put into an old folks home, something Ramona was grateful for as the thing that the OAPs had was wisdom... it was like having 100 grandparents.

Everything discussed here reminds me of Jane Jacobs' "The Life and Death of Great American Cities" and how all the chaos of the city creates order:

"When Jimmy Rogan fell through a plate-glass window (he was separating some scuffling friends) and almost lost his arm, a stranger in an old T shirt emerged from a bar, swiftly applied an expert tourniquet, and, according to the hospital’s emergency staff, saved Jimmy’s life. Nobody remembered seeing the man before and no one has seen him since. The hospital was called in this way: a woman sitting on the steps next to the accident ran over to the bus stop, wordlessly snatched the dime from the hand of a stranger who was waiting with his fifteen-cent fare ready, and raced into the Ideal’s phone booth. The stranger raced after her to offer the nickel too. Nobody remembered seeing him before, and nobody has seen him since"

Something that Ramona said that really made me think was when she asked us to consider the talent in the room... what could we all learn from each other and/or how much could we help students and young people by sharing our knowledge and wisdom?

Ramona also discussed how difficult life was not having a voice, how it led to people making decisions for her, the clothes that she wore and the trips that she went on. She then applied this same issue to the business world by highlighting "If employees don't have a voice they become unhappy."

When relearning how to talk she spoke of the embarrassment of making childish noises, something that was helped by gamification with playing curse scrabble (I wonder if #Carpetthefuckingdiem ever came up?)

Ramona then talked about the dangers of becoming complacent as, when she got to a certain lifestyle, she stopped taking risks.

Ramona ended her talk by highlighting that her entire journey has helped her to be an innovator... and innovators come up with ideas but can't always communicate them.

I have been delighted to develop an independent voice in my blog, something that has perhaps been compromised as I now write in support of Declara so much... HOWEVER, if you take the time read the story that I wanted to tell so badly that it was the reason I started a blog, you will see why this isn't a problem for me... as Ramona and her team has hard wired into the company's DNA what I was advocating for in that early post "Culture in Education...A House Divided Against It'self Cannot Stand"

In my notebook I have highlighted in big bold letters Ramona's parting statement from her talk on Friday:


You can only wonder what this might look like at the moment but, as the sales process evolves and the shared economy develops I think that we'll see more of the extreme radical collaboration and less of the faux collaboration that I've both seen and experienced.

Collaboration... But Not Really
OK this is a tricky part of the post? If it's true and actually happened... does that mean that I'm being snarky? How much do you detail to ensure that you are not naming and shaming as opposed to making a point? I'm not sure... but here goes.

Gazelle: I reached out to the good and the great of this agenda to try to tell them how and why their initiative was all wrong. The result? The project cost £3.5million had 27 colleges subscribing at its peak and today has 5 colleges.

Not only did I write a Business Development Ideas for FE Report before this group was formed, I shared some of the findings with one of the founders six months before Gazelle was officially launched/established

FELTAG: I tried to offer my input with regard to how to test and scale the concept of having 10% of college course material online, which was based on 9 months of research and ideas that I continue to use and explore to good effect today.

Some people did reach out to me, but appeared to me to beat a time in the project when it suited them.

When I saw an opportunity to take action and make 100% certain that I was heard, this same individual was quick to get in touch to criticize my actions but also appeared to me to abdicate any responsibility when the grand plans didn't quite pan out a couple of years later.

Two years is a long time in politics...
2016: It's start small then scale
2014: It was all "Rocket Boosters on

Digital Skills: A few years ago it was all entrepreneurship with Gazelle and Peter Jones Academies along with 230 other young enterprise initiatives where there appeared to be little or no collaboration... but plenty of egos!

Over the last few weeks I've seen this same trend emerge as digital skills is the latest hot topic in the UK. When I reached out to people to get support for the UK Digital Citizenship Summit, something I got involved with because of the collaboration at the first event, these same people didn't lift a finger to help in any way.

A few weeks ago Reclaim the Internet was launched, last week #DigitalSkills was trending with a shiny new report (which possibly cost thousands and thousands of pounds).

Last Thursday I noticed that there was an event about #DigiLeaders...I won't deny that some of the conversation was quite interesting, but when I saw it was a government initiative I switched off completely.

Furthermore, when you see that the DigiLeader Scotland initiative was managed from Manchester, you've got to question the Scottish Governments commitment to Scotland's "Developing the Youth Workforce" and "Reducing the Attainment Gap"

When I was in London meeting with the team from Declara there was a digital skills event in Scotland with three people speaking, and where calls for collaboration and transparency were being discussed at the event and on the hashtag.

One of these people I have the utmost respect for, another ignored me when I was asked to assist with their work and was looking for support with something that I was working on that could develop the #DigiLearnScot agenda and ideas from Chris van de Kuyl's awesome keynote at last year's Scottish Education Festival.

A third speaker at this event offered to help with the UK Digital Citizenship Summit, but ended up giving me what I can only describe as my first experience of dealing with a troll... And yet was being praised here for their social media skills... go figure?

If anyone feels that detailing these experiences is being overly cynical or unconstructive in any way, I'd love to hear how the Scottish Government is going to reduce the attainment gap with a workforce of educators who are so demolarised that they are ready to take industrial action.

...Or how something that was once seen as a vocation is now a viable option for people facing redundancy because our "hard working" and "right honourable" MPs can't create the right culture to attract and retain educators.

What is mentioned above are realisms more than criticisms' per se. Seriously, I'm not being snarky here and don't feel that highlighting things that actually happened to me is entirely nonconstructive, especially as I detail these things in the hope of saving others a lot of time and trouble by recommending that they be aware of the takers and fakers... especially any sector that involved politicians.

Here's someone with a little more authority on the topic of poseurs who's only skill is to put together a good CV.

Beware of the Poseurs

With no direct correlation to any of the above, I'd like to end this post with an extract from Nolan Bushnell's "Finding the Next Steve Jobs" those who feel that they don't have a voice in their workplace and/or simply want to #CarpettheFuckingDiem... If that's you, you know where to find me and some AWESOME Silicon Valley startup friends (More on the kind of space I'd like this to be in my next post).

"This books' basic readership is people who want their company to be more creative. My fear is that some readers will use it differently: As a guide to being a phony. After all, I'm giving them a whole bunch of ideas on how to act like a creative.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the years is that the business world (and by extension, the world itself) is filled with poseurs. these people are quite clever at figuring out what you want them to say, and then saying it exactly the way you want to hear it.

I first learned about the onmipresence of phonies during the early years of Atari. The custom chip business was very difficult and time consuming. And because it could take at least a year to get a completed custom chip working, a whole cadre of people posing as chip designers would always find ways to leave the company or get fired before the chip ever worked. Steve Jobs once told me that there were many employees at Apple who never got a single chip working. I told him it was the same at Atari. These people were able to go from job to job to job, doing something that seemed creative but yielding zero output. I remember one guy whose nickname became "I Almost Have It." Every time we'd ask if his chip was ready, that's what he'd say.

You have to be wary of poseurs. So how do you recognise them?

For one thing, don't rely solely on credentials in hiring. In the chip world, for example, someone can have terrific credentials in chip design without any ability to get a chip engineered. Such poseurs know how to build up a terrific looking resume. you'll soon find out it's their major talent.

The poseur's fundamental skill is the bluff. For some reason they don't feel a need to go past that, which is why they are easily unmasked. At Atari, I once hired two people who came from Hewlett-Packard. At the time, HP was considered the best company in the field. If you'd landed one of it's executives, you felt pretty lucky. These guys were like butter: so smooth, so polished, so frictionless. It turned out that they didn't know how to do anything except shine at an interview, and, once on the job, take credit for what their underlings did.

All of us have been taken in by poseurs at one point or another. The trick is to learn from the experience rather than endlessly repeat it" Nolan Bushnell, Finding the Next Steve Jobs

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