By golly, I think I’m getting the hang of it!
At Improv 101 today, we warmed up by tossing an imaginary ball around, karate-chopped our way to more energy, acted out scenes using only food words for dialogue, and then practiced doing monologue-inspired scenes following the Armando style.
I’m getting better at relaxing and creating characters with their own points of view. I spent some time thinking about and “trying on” different kinds of roles, and that made it easier to mix some of those characteristics with the suggestions that the audience gave. Getting the relationship as a suggestion helped, too.
I still sometimes get stuck in repetitive arguments, but I’m getting better at consciously breaking out of them by introducing new elements. I also had fun figuring out some quick games to play with my scene partner.
Next steps: practice my initiations, get better at listening and responding, avoid simple repetition (build a game of complex repetition), collect more characters.
One more class to go! I’ve signed up for the next course in the sequence, and I’m sure this will all be fun. More practice would be good, too. More listening.
Perhaps I should be like Mr. Collins, writing down and arranging such little initiations as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, and trying to give them with as unstudied an air as possible. ;)
We’ve been working on our 72-hour survival kits, and we decided to test the food in our kit. Time to find out if the instant meals and energy bars work for us. For extra measure, W- duct-taped the fridge and freezer closed.
So far, so good. For breakfast, we mixed milk from powder and combined it with granola. It was okay, although the cats wouldn’t touch the left-over milk. For lunch, we used the camp stove to heat up lamb curry, grilled chicken, and rice. We still haven’t made dinner, as the two meals and assorted snacks have kept us quite full.
It’s good to plan ahead. When you have your safety net in place, you don’t worry as much, and you have more fun.
From last week’s plans:
Next week’s plans:
Over tea at B Espresso (111 Queen E), Daneal Charney picked my brain about collaboration, Web 2.0, Gen Y, community-building, leadership, and other topics of mutual interest. She filled a few pages of notes with people, websites, and books to check out, which is usually what happens when people get me going on something. (People who ask questions during my tea parties at home often leave with a reading assignment. That’s how I make space on my shelves for new books and new ideas to come in.)
Towards the end of the conversation, she asked me if there was anything I wanted her help on. I told her that I find it a lot of fun to connect the dots between people and other people, ideas, and resources so that they can make things happen. Fun? It’s exhilarating. Connecting the dots is one of the things that brains are really really good at.
You might recognize this thought from a few days ago, when I was reflecting on how I have a hard time arbitrarily reaching out to people to catch up, but I enjoy asking people for help on behalf of others.
Networks are like muscles. The more you exercise them, the stronger they get. (Although networks are more like neurons than they are like muscles, because muscles get stronger because you damage the fibers, while neurons strengthen synapses with use…</tangent>)
The brain is a marvelous associating machine. One stimulus triggers a memory, which triggers another, and so on. The more raw material you pick up and the more you exercise this ability to make useful connections, the better you get at it, and the better you’ll remember the important parts. I’m still working on being able to remember where I leave little things, but ask me for book recommendations or stories, and I can probably rattle them off before I find my keys.
And what a pay-off! Sometimes a tip about an obscure software package can help a friend deliver a solution quickly. Sometimes an introduction results in great friendships. Sometimes a link gets a person to explore even more. Terrific return, especially as it’s mostly from things you’ve picked up already. If you don’t know something yet, you can learn in the process of helping.
At my last get-together, Laura Kalbun (who did our vegetable plot and whom I’ll keep recommending because I think her story is cool) thanked me for taking such an interest in helping her succeed. I told her how it lets me exercise my brain and create opportunities without having to do the rest of the work. She laughed and called me vicariously entrepreneurial. That idea feels about right. Also, it’s a great deal of fun.
That’s what I get out of these chats. I don’t need it to be a self-contained quid pro quo. In fact, the more thoroughly people pick my brain about something we’re both interested, the more I learn from the firehose of ideas, links, and resources. The more they get me interested in what they’re doing, the more questions I ask, and the more they learn too. Lots of win all around.
So far, all the conversations I’ve had like that have been fantastic. It probably wouldn’t work so well with people who reject ideas with words like “Yeah, but…”, or with people who expect me to tell them what they’re passionate about, but people who pick my brain are usually positive and passionate.
I think it would be awesome to try this on the Net. Maybe on Skype for an hour or two during the weekend? It would be great to take questions about practically anything, scaling from a one-on-one consultation with screen sharing to a free-for-all chat. I used to be an IRC channel operator. I can deal with multiple threads. ;)
So… anyone here want to pick my brain? What do you want to talk about? When might be a good time to chat? <laugh> Ever been to something like that online? How was it? What should I or shouldn’t I do to make it great? =)
I was on a panel with Luis Suarez, Jeannette Browning, and Bill Chamberlin about choosing the right social networking tools. The panel was particularly awesome because we had a lot of interaction both on the phone and in the text chat, and the questions drew out all sorts of interesting insights.
A large part of the text chat was about how other social networking tools are supplementing or even replacing e-mail as the way people work. We talked about the etiquette of instant messaging and how near-real-time communication fits into the workplace without being disruptive. Thinking about the shift away from e-mail, though, I realized that there are actually several changes at play.
First, there’s the shift from asynchronous to near-real-time, which is what you get when you go from e-mail buried in people’s inboxes to instant messages that show up on their screen. People worry that they’ll interrupt others or that they’ll always be interrupted, but that can be addressed by managing your presence indicators (“do not disturb” is handy!). They also worry that information will be lost or things will be forgotten, because many people use their e-mail inboxes as their to-do list, and that can be addressed by better task management and better follow-up.
The more interesting shift for me, however, is the shift from private to public. This is what many people struggle with, because writing for an unknown audience is scary. It’s also one of the most powerful way social software shifts the way we work. By moving as much information as you can from e-mail, instant messaging, and other private channels, to public channels such as blogs, communities, and forums, you make it possible for other people to learn from what you’re doing and connect with you. You reach beyond your known area of influence.
It’s almost impossible to read a newspaper or watch a news show without being reminded of the dangers of sharing information online, but these warnings scare people away from the tremendous upside that they can gain by sharing knowledge and exercising a little common sense. There’s probably another good blog post in here somewhere. Food for thought.
The ditty bag I made was in too floral a fabric for W- to use, so I appropriated it and have been using it to carry my wallet, iPod, cellphone and keys, all in one neat little package. As a result, I’ve drastically reduced the time spent looking for each of those things. =) Being able to quickly make and use organizers is incredibly cool.
I thought I’d make a new lunch bag next. The first lunch bag I made was a hobo lunch sack following this tutorial from Sewing Notion. It turned out to be just the right size for the Rubbermaid Takealong containers I’ve standardized on for my home-made frozen lunches. Hooray!
It’s reversible, and I have a dress that matches one of the sides. One of these casual Fridays, I just might show up at the office with a coordinated dress-and-lunchbag set. ;)
Next, I’m planning to make a purse organizer that can fit a few more things, and then maybe I’ll make another lunch bag. It’s fun and easy!
From last week’s plans:
Plans for next week (this week, really)
IBM’s holding another one of its awesome collaboration jams (72-hour web-based brainstorming/discussion), this time on Smart Work.
I’m passionate about helping people connect and collaborate. All the topics highlighted are things I’m deeply interested in: teams, Gen Y, collaboration…. After I get through my 9-12 AM leadership development class (whee!), I’m looking forward to joining the Jam.
Anyway, I was inspired to make this:
There’s so much more to say, but I still have to figure out how to say it… =)
Join us for the Jam and/or the videocast! http://www-01.ibm.com/software/solutions/smartwork/virtual/
I’m starting to accumulate a backlog of things to write about. Life is too interesting to capture, and yet too interesting to let slip!
I am looking forward to sleeping in this weekend, and to fleshing out these quick points.
Here are Seth Godin and Tom Peters, talking about why they blog:
I always tell people not to worry about whether or not anyone will read their blog or comment on it. Just write. Write so that you can figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you’re good, people will read you. If you struggle, keep at it, and you’ll get better.
Hat-tip to Ruchi Bhatia for the link!
“Umm… Your beard is fuzzy!”
I have a feeling that improv is going to take a bit more work.
We started the second class of Improv 201 with a drill called “Compliments,” where we complimented a person and the person responded by validating the compliment and adding more information on top of that. For example, if you complimented a person on his shoes, he might name the specific kind of shoe or where he got it. Made-up information was perfectly okay. That part was easy.
Then we moved to “Insults”, where we insulted people. Instead of reacting defensively, they were to accept the insult with open arms and be proud of it, adding even more information.
This was where I found out that I suck at insulting people. I’m worse than Guybrush Threepwood. *sigh*
So that’s my homework. I need to be more aggressive. I need to be more comfortable broaching topics people usually dance around. I need to be more assertive. And it’s not like I’m really taking anyone down, because we do this in the safe environment of an improv class. A strong insult is actually a favour because it lets people demonstrate their skill at insult aikido.
There are different kinds of insults. There are generic insults (“You’re ugly!”) and specific insults (“You’re as ugly as Windows 3.1!”, or something like that ;) ). In the Insults game, I have fun thinking of person-specific insults, such as teasing a stand-up comedian about how he put everyone to sleep during his show, or teasing a project manager about his late deliveries. It’s more of a compliment, really, because I know something that’s important to them. Those kinds of insults are hard to do with people I’ve really just met, though, because I don’t know enough things about people. So I’m just going to have to get better at specific insults, which can be fun and creative.
I don’t resonate with the language most insult comics use, but there are lots of great examples of witty put-downs elsewhere. And it’s not really about being mean–it’s about being forthright.
I’ll keep you posted!
I was surprised by how popular The Shy Connector became, with almost 6500 views in the last month. I’d stumbled across something other people had been struggling with, and the tips I shared resonated with people. A friend asked me if he could use the presentation in an upcoming technical conference expecting 1000 registrants. I offered to come up with a version specifically about helping people make the most of geek conferences, based on this braindump of conference networking tips I shared early this year.
That got me to thinking: What else do you want a shy connector’s take on? What other tips can I help put together?
Off the top of my head, I can imagine:
It would be fun to think about how introverts like me–like us?–can use natural inclinations, emerging trends, and new tools to connect without being fake. Lots of stick figures and stories will help keep things real.
I don’t know all of this stuff yet, but maybe we can explore this together!
I woke up with a terrible cough–the same one from last week, but worse–and decided not to inflict it on my office-mates, so I worked from home. After a few hiccups regarding network access, I finally got things sorted out.
I thought about staying indoors all day. I didn’t feel particularly social and the cough made it more comfortable to stay silent. But my manager had organized a meeting for our extended group, and I wanted to go. So I grabbed a bag of cough lozenges and I rode my bicycle (in office clothes!) all the way to the office. I wasn’t running a fever anyway, so my cough was probably not infectious.
Results: I enjoyed a few hours of great conversation, learning a lot about IBM and my coworkers’ lives. I helped another new hire figure something out. I consumed seven cough lozenges, which was probably above the recommended dosage. I had a good bike ride: 8.4 km one way, around 40 minutes because I was taking it really easy so that I wouldn’t have to change my shirt on arrival. It was also a good opportunity to test my commute route, which turned out to be okay. Davenport has bicycle lanes pretty much all the way I needed to go.
I really appreciated how my manager and service delivery manager shared the big picture with us. It was interesting to see the numbers they were measured against, and to hear about the trends in the workplace. I also appreciated getting to know the other team members over dinner, and I look forward to learning more about them as I get the hang of inviting people out for a coffee or lunch break.
I’m back at home now, still nursing the cough, still going through my stash of lozenges. I’m glad I went to that, even though I didn’t feel particularly social when I headed out the door. I figured that opportunities like that shouldn’t be passed up, and the bike ride helped me shift gears and get ready to interact.
So that’s the fifth straight day I’ve found an excuse to ride my bicycle, and life is good. I’m looking forward to biking to work tomorrow. Musn’t forget my sewing kit for classes in the afternoon! I’m temporarily swapping my writing-in-the-subway time for exercising-for-half-an-hour-each-way time, but there are other times to write, and exercise is good.
Also, I like the people I get to work with. They’re awesome, and I’m glad to be part of this team.
The Smart Work Jam discussions will be available until October 3. I’m strongly tempted to figure out how to slurp down the content into a database so that I can look for patterns and insights, but I suspect they’d mind. So I thought I’d think about what I want to get out of the Jam, and maybe I can find more effective ways to do so. At 2262 posts, the Jam is overwhelming. Can I focus in order to pull out the insights I want?
Jams are great for IBM in terms of tapping collective insight, but they’re also good for individuals like you and me. I like reading Jam posts in order to find out what people are thinking about, what they’re concerned about, what needs they see, where they think we need to go. I love it when people share their thoughts and I can think of a tool that does most of what they want, or I can introduce them to other people who are working on the same ideas. So the key things I’m looking for here are:
I’m particularly interested in virtual collaboration, and I’m also interested in multi-generational workplaces. I care more about collaboration tools than about multi-generational workplaces because I think that globalization and work-life integration place more stress on the workplace than generational differences do. I’m interested in the specific issues people run into when working with globally-integrated teams. I’m interested in the tasks people often do, and how we might use collaboration tools to do that work more efficiently and effectively. I’m interested in helping people connect and collaborate. So in terms of the Smart Work Jam, that would be “The Future of Team Work”, “Work Without Boundaries”, and “Smart Work 2020”.
… some time later…
Okay, I’ve blogged about some of the insights I picked up. (See blog posts immediately preceding this one.) Here’s another highlight that didn’t neatly fit into a blog post:
Successful Teamwork does not Need High Tech! – turned into a great discussion of group dynamics when text chat is available. One group found that when they were using Second Life without the VOIP chat (so text only), colleagues from Asia were more likely to participate than usual. Once VOIP was integrated, that dynamic shifted, and the colleagues from Asia were quieter. Another group had the same experience, so possibly voice chat inhibits both voice and text chat for people who are less comfortable with the primary language. The thread also has interesting insights drawn from research into the Fedora open source development community.
So I’ve stuffed lots of posts into my brain and contacted a couple of people. Now it’s time to let them percolate for a bit…
One of the posts from the Smart Work Jam about the future of team work was about the idea of “swarming talent”, a talent pool that flows in and out of projects.
That sounds almost just like the manpower outsourcing (??????, Google translation to English) I’d learned about when I went on an AOTS technical scholarship in Japan in 2004. In Japan, it’s difficult to do large projects in one company because payroll costs would be much too high during non-busy times. So they have a very flexible structure that’s similar to using lots of contractors or collaborating with lots of companies. It is not unheard of for someone to work at Company A, get dispatched to Company B, which then dispatches the person to Company C.
It lets companies manage their manpower requirements really flexibly, but it has its own challenges. My instructor emphasized the difficulty of working out disputes or making accommodations, because of the complex coordination needed between different companies. The Wikipedia entry lists even more.
Something worth thinking about…
I think it’s absolutely fascinating that we can look at how different societies experiment with different policies or systems, and we can learn from their experiences. I think it’s also cool that something I learned in one context turns out to be useful in another. Travel is tough, but being able to connect the dots makes it worthwhile…
Another post taking off from the Smart Work Jam: One of the participants wondered what I’d say about loyalty. I can’t speak for Gen Y and loyalty, but I do know that I love my work.
Am I loyal? “Loyalty” makes me think of Labrador Retrievers or fiefdoms or frequent shopper programs. I won’t stay with IBM just out of habit. I don’t think of it as loyalty, I think of it as love.
I’m here because I love the kinds of people I get to work with and the kinds of differences we get to make.
It’s love, not loyalty, that makes me happy at work, that makes my voice catch in my throat when I read about the awesome things people are doing, that makes me enjoy reaching out and helping out and making things happen.
I love my work not because of the past, but because of the future.
I may not always be at IBM. It’s healthy to step outside and try different things. But while I’m here, I’m here, and I’m in love.
Companies often wonder about recruiting, engagement, and retention–of Gen Y, of other generations, and so on. People have asked me what to do to get people to feel like how I feel about IBM. I think it isn’t that hard to figure out.
The IBM I get to see is different from the company that many people see. I’m going to figure out how to share this amazing experience with others. I may not be able to help everyone (re)discover or strengthen their passion, but maybe I can help a few people, and that would already be fantastic.
Don’t go for loyalty. Go for love. It’s a bigger challenge, but it’s well worth it.
– Friday –
I rode the subway instead of bicycling to work. It took me the same amount of time, which I used to draft some blog posts and respond to mail. I thought I’d take the subway so that I could bring my rolling case and take my work laptop home.
I missed the exercise already, missed the steady progression of streets, missed the strange combination of relaxation and tension (mm, trees; are there any car doors about to kill me?).
The weather’s getting cooler. It’s officially autumn now. Aside from gloves, what else do people use to make their cool-weather bike rides better?
I’m a little worried about handling snow and ice on my Manhattan Smoothie. I wonder if I’ll have to learn how to ride a real bike, and whether I’m up to that just yet. Maybe someday…
– Sunday –
W- helped me install a bicycle computer, which tracks total distance, trip time (only the time spent cycling), and a bunch of other useful things. I’m pleased to report that we biked 34km today, for a total trip time of two and a half hours. That involved some errands and a wonderful excursion to the Don Valley trails. The leafy canopy let filtered sunlight through, and it was beautiful.
I think I kinda like this biking thing.
zomg, just realized I’d skipped the weekly review for last week. Hmm. Clearly, I need to sort out my task tracking system. I’m currently in limbo between Toodledo and Org, and things are falling through the cracks. The last time I thought about this, I decided to go with Org, so I should try making that my main system.
What did I do for the week ending September 20? Ah, yes:
Okay. Back to this week. For the week ending September 27, 2009, I:
Next week, I plan to:
Geekiness makes my heart flutter.
Last night, we had dinner with W-‘s family. Conversation topic? The periodic table, would you believe it. His dad was quizzing one of the kids on what the valence number of carbon was, and before long, most people were involved in trying to reconstruct the periodic table from memory. Ah, geeks.
That reminded me of my friends, who were Quite Geeky as well. One of them could perform the parlor trick of rattling off the elements of the periodic table, in order. He also memorized quite a number of digits of pi. One of my favourite memories of my group of friends is of that night that we were hanging out on the roofdeck, and the talk turned to secret geek powers. _Two_ of my friends started listing the digits of pi, in unison. Stereo geekiness! (No wonder I had crushes on them at some point. <laugh>)
And W-… Ah, W-. We were playing Twenty Questions with J- once, and it was W-‘s turn to come up with something. Several questions in, I asked, "Is it flexible?" He laughed and said, "To an engineer, everything is flexible," and we had a fun time joking about engineer quirks. With all the wordplay, the computer-related jokes, and the general math and science quirkiness we share… Whee!
We also appreciate geekiness in other fields. There are photography geeks, bike saddle geeks, and so on. There’s just something fascinating about people who are fascinated by knowledge.
It’s fun being a geek.
A personal connection can make going to the dentist a lot of fun.
I like going to my dentist. Part of it is because I get paranoid about my teeth, running to the dentist at the slightest hint of a cavity. Part of it is that my dentist’s office is pleasantly quirky, adorned with well-shot portraits and oil paintings of a pet poodle. (I kid you not.) It’s a little like getting to see his personal side.
The office manager knows me by name, reads my blog(!), and laughs about my own quirks: the virtual assistants who call her to schedule, reschedule and confirm appointments; the varied interests she reads about; the ways I handle my health coverage. (I think I’ll revert to the standard plan next year.) The dentist jokes about technology and asks about my trips. Sometimes the assistants chat with me about graduate school or life in general.
I like getting e-mail updates, hearing about the different things that are going on, checking out the pictures they’ve just posted.
Imagine if more companies and more services made you feel that they knew you as a person… =)
And for businesses: It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to be real. Those personal characteristics make it easier for people to relate to you.
(Note: I’m not getting anything for this post, although I like to imagine that my dentist is extra-careful when drilling because he knows I blog. ;) )
Yesterday taught me a little more about my quirks when it comes to connecting with people.
First: I’m horrible at matching names to faces out of the blue. I compensate for this by glossing over it and smiling back in a friendly manner when someone smiles at me. If I’m lucky, people will give me enough tactful cues to remind me who they are in conversation. A name, an e-mail address, a particular characteristic – that’s usually enough to trigger my associative memory, which is strongly verbal instead of visual. Once I know who someone is, then it’s easy to access lots of other things I know about them, and people have complimented me on my ability to remember little things about people. But that initial link can be difficult, which is why I like interacting with people online where their names are associated with their words and I can look up people’s records in my database.
I occasionally feel quite anxious about this (especially when people put me on the spot), but I wonder what would happen if I simply accepted that and worked with it. I like how my mom handled it whenever I invited my friends over. She used to tell my friends that she’s likely to forget people’s names, so that’s the reason why I keep reintroducing people to her. And I would do so, reintroducing even friends who’d been there again and again, until my mom laughed and referred to them by name. If I can find a way to explain to people that I draw a blank on names a lot, while making it clear that it’s me, not them, that would be cool.
Also, I’m working on this by sharing my stories, asking more people to never put people on the spot like that, and avoiding doing so myself. If you think someone might have forgotten your name, reintroduce yourself instead of embarrassing the other person. ;) I also like including memory-joggers into the conversation, so that helps.
Second: I’m a little people-blind when it comes to slurping information. I remember concepts more than I remember authors, plot lines more than I remember actors, and posts and ideas more than I remember bloggers. I sometimes find it hard to figure out names that are out of context. I suspect I tend to skip past people’s pictures, too.
Maybe if I slow down a little, some more of that will stick in my head, and I’ll gain a peripheral understanding of what people are up to. I could also apply a tip I picked up today, which is to look for web traces for random people. Hmm, I think I can make a virtual assistance process for that…
Third: I’m good at connecting the dots. I may not be good at matching faces to names, but once I know who people are, I enjoy asking questions to find out what they’re passionate about, and I don’t hesitate to drag people across the room to introduce them to people they should get to know. ;) I’m good at remembering things people might have in common with other people. I’m working on getting better at that by taking notes, and I can get even better when I find or make a personal social aggregator and search engine.
It’s important to play to your strengths and work around your weaknesses. Real-life events can be tough for me, particularly if people don’t have nametags. There are a whole lot of people at work and elsewhere whom I should know, but don’t really. Heck, my memories of high school and college classmates are quite fuzzy. But I like connecting the dots. I get a kick out of doing so, and I love creating value that way. I’m good at that, and I’m good at supporting that with tools.
Last night’s Toronto Girl Geek Dinner with Sarah Prevette, the founder ofSprouter, was a great braindump of entrepreneurship and networking tips.
Sarah told us stories about her failures and what she’d learned along the way, particularly the importance of talking to potential users and reaching out to the community. Her tips for engaging with the community were:
Here are other tips she shared:
Here are some notes from the Q&A:
Toronto Girl Geek Dinners is giving away one free pass for people who would like to attend the Mesh Marketing event. Tweet @s_moore with the answer to the question of why it would be awesome for a girl geek to go to the event, and the most creative answer will get a free pass. More details about that and upcoming events at .