The “Other”

I have come to the conclusion, via age and experience, that it is more productive to surround myself with like-minded people.  It makes life easier and more enriching, I think.  Social media allow us to do this with the click of a button as we friend, follow and link with people who are like us in some way.  Our conversations are stimulating and energised but are they challenging in terms of seeking to understand the “other”?  Has social media allowed us to avoid other points of view in favour of celebrating our own.  What are the risks with this on a personal level, on a national level and on a global level?

Elizabeth Lesser, in a thought-provoking TED talk called “Take the Other to Lunch” looks at her own life as part mystic (grace), part warrior (grit)  The latter seeks to get on with things and focuses on the now whilst the former asks “what are we missing?”  She wonders if the circle we draw around ourselves (our family, friends, followers) is too small and too similar and may contribute towards the “demonisation” or “otherisation” of those with different viewpoints to our own.

Her talk inspires us to take someone whose point of view makes “smoke come out of our ears” to lunch so we can find out what is really in each others’ hearts.  When Elizabeth Lesser did this herself (she, being left-wing, invited a right-wing supporter) she found out the generic labels that are assigned to others do not represent those people as individuals.  She does argue that the intention of taking the other to lunch is not to change their worldview or to expect differences to melt away just to meet them in a neutral space and explore.

This had made me rethink my own point of view.  I don’t know if I’m ready to take an “other” to lunch (my views are pretty strong) just yet but once I work on my ability to not get defensive and to just listen I might give it a go. 

Who would you take to lunch and why?

Are all your social networks like you in some way?

What would you need to do to prepare for a lunch with the “other”?

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Make Like A Pancake

I can’t make pancakes.  I know how to make them but they never look like they are supposed to.  The perfect pancake is cooked on one side until golden brown and then flipped to repeat the process on the other side.  Two perfect sides that make up the whole.  Thinking is a bit like that  isn’t it?  There are always at least two sides to every argument…

Recently, I read an article about a new book on social networking called “Alone Together” by Sherry Turkle.  The basic premise of the book is that social networking is responsible for the lack of face-t0-face interactions and is basically killing conversation.  I have to admit that I haven’t read the book (it’s on my list) so I’m not going to critique its content.  I’m more interested in taking the basic idea of the book and, like a good pancake, examining the other side of the argument to see what’s cooking there.

Steve Denning, citing John Hagel, provides some interesting insight into the other side with an article on conversation and social media.  He points to the fact that real conversation (conversation that matters, that challenges, that changes) has never really taken place in a face-to-face format.  Social networking has provided a space for this type of conversation, a space where you can choose the conversation to listen to, respond to and engage with.  Conversation that can be heard on a global level.

My own experience has shown this to be true.  I have recently ramped up my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and joined groups that resonate with me.  I am actively involved in some fantastic, radical, thought provoking conversation with people in my industry across the world.  I have been delighted with the mature approach that most people adopt in the online environment.  The temptation to disregard manners can be high when you are not looking at the other person but I have found people to be considerate, willing to listen, responsive and energised by the conversation (even if there are disagreements)  The process, for me, has been extremely rewarding.

So, when you read or hear something that paints a negative, fear based  image of a situation make like a pancake and flip over to see what’s happening on the other side.  Then you can make up your own (informed) mind…

What have you come across recently where you could make like a pancake?

How do make sure that you have considered all points of view in a situation?

What do you do if you disagree with both sides of the pancake?  Make like a brownie?????

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A trained monkey OR an active learner?

I send my daughter to school mostly for what she can learn in the playground.  I stopped believing long ago that school could teach her the really important skills in life so I look after that at home.  Most of what happens in school is “training” – ramming kids heads full of irrelevant content they are expected to be interested in and retain.  It doesn’t get much better at tertiary level either. Remember how you crammed (trained yourself) for exams only to forget everything once the exam was over?

Real learning takes place in the playground as my daughter is exposed to a variety of personalities and behaviour that she needs to manage and moderate, including her own.  She has learnt leadership, problem solving, negotiation, influence, communication and creativity in the playground.  Skills that will take her through life.

You can imagine how excited I was when I came across this article which looks at real learning and how it can be gained more from interactions with others than from formal lessons.  Read it now and see what you think…

This has implications for workplace learning.  I think the nature of learning is changing in workplaces to involve a more collaborative, participative approach and use of social media is leading the charge.  So, let’s stop using the word “training” and move to a culture where learning is championed and occurs right when you need it in a meaningful way.

Do you consider yourself a learner?

Are you training your children or are you letting them learn?

How does your organisation approach learning and how can you influence that?

Who do you blame?

Social networking is in the news again. This time it appears that some young people have used FB as a tool to talk about one of their teachers in a very unfavourable way.

Everyone is up in arms, the school administration, the parents, the children and the government as they all scrabble around to find a solution to this issue.

So, who is to blame? Who takes responsibility for the use or misuse of social networking sites?

The government would have us believe that the creator of FB needs to step up and address this issue, the parents think the school is responsible and the kids probably don’t really care much.

I wonder if anyone is actually teaching young people about social networking etiquette? Didn’t we once raise our children to be aware of and practice appropriate social skills? Why are we not then addressing the issue of social networking skills in our homes and schools.

The world has changed but people are still basically the same, we can all talk about other people in less than favourable ways. The difference is that what used to be a note passed in class or a whisper at the office water cooler is now a post on FB, or a video on YouTube or a text. Private comments have gone public.

As technology develops at an alarming pace, parents and schools need to be one step ahead of not only the technology but how our children are using it.

Social Networking

During an extended break from work I logged onto FaceBook with the intention of reconnecting with the site and with friends. Over time I found myself addicted to the site and would check it countless times during the day. It all got horribly out of control. FB was running my life!

Today I removed myself from FB to enable me to get my life back!

I have been thinking about social networking sites and wondering what they are really all about. It seems to me, from my experience, that if you talk mostly about yourself and keep any posts very lightweight you are OK. However, as soon as you buy into the need to respond to posts that you disagree with you step into dangerous territory and run the risk of committing FB suicide.

Is there value in hooking up with people who you haven’t seen for a long time? If you really , really valued them wouldn’t you have kept in touch with them? Is it more meaningful to connect with people virtually or face to face (where you can)?

Personally, I think that social networking sites are less about the social and more about the self…