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Imagine success for social media

I was talking to an independent consultant who wanted to get better at using social media to expand his network. I suggested that he put together articles and presentations that he can share with his contacts (mostly executives) that are useful and that they would probably share with the right people in their companies.

Thinking about this, I realized that imagining the ideal scenarios can help people recognize the value of investing in sharing knowledge or building a social media presence. You can say that sharing is important, or you can imagine a story that goes like this:


CEO of small business: Oh! It’s an e-mail from __. He always sends me useful information, so I’ll take a look at this one. Hmm, this whitepaper looks like something our company could learn from. Let me send it to the director in charge of that.

Director: Hmm, an e-mail from the VP, I better read it. Ah, an article that looks like it will help with one of the challenges I’m currently working on. Hey, this guy has some great tips. I wonder… Oh, he has a website with other articles and presentations! Great. I’m going to flip through the presentations that look immediately useful. I should probably bookmark this site so I can come back to it later. Hey, he’s on Twitter. Let me check out what he posts… He’s got an upcoming seminar – that looks interesting, maybe I’ll attend. I think I’ll follow him on Twitter so that I can hear about other updates. Hmm, maybe he can do some consulting for us for this project – that would save me a lot of time, help me get the results I need… (and if he’s as good as he seems to be, I’ll look like a star).

Someone else searching on the Net: Hmm, I need to learn more about ___ if I’m going to be able to deliver those results. Oh, here’s an article that might be useful. Those are good points. Let me save this. I wonder… ah, he has other articles and presentations. Those are useful too. Let me read them… I wonder if he’s available to do some consulting. Oh, look, he’s in Toronto too. That makes it easier. I should give him a call.


Think about what success looks like. Tell yourself a story about what could happen. It’s probably less about just increasing the number of your followers or posting at least one blog post a week, and more about actions and results. What’s that story? Walk through it in your head, check if it’s plausible, and identify the pieces you need to build in order to make it happen. Doesn’t investing in those pieces make more sense now that you can see how they’re related to your end goals?

That led me to think about the ideal stories I tell myself. When I write for my blog, this is what I hope will happen:


Me: “Ah! Now I understand things a little better. Let me go try that and see what happens. … Yup, that works, and here’s how I can make it even better.”

Someone: “I need to figure out something. Let me search… Hmm, that look interesting, let me try that. Hey, that works. Oh, that looks useful too. And that one! And that one! I’m going to add this to my feed reader. … Oh look, another post from Sacha. She reminds me that it’s possible to be cheerful and have fun doing awesome things. =) Hmm, I know someone who might find this useful too…”

Someone: “Can you help me with __?” Me: “I could’ve sworn I’ve written about that around here… Ah, there it is! Here’s the link.” Someone: “Awesome. Thanks!”


What are the stories you imagine, and what do those stories help you learn about what you can do to make them happen?

Conversations: Stian Håklev

Stian Håklev is passionate about education – and in particular, the richness of different cultures and perspectives. Here are some notes from a fascinating conversation I had with him at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, where he’s doing his PhD.

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… and it wasn’t all questions, either – he has lots of ideas!

You can read his thesis at reganmian.net or check out the peer-to-peer education site he’s working on, where they’ve partnered with the Mozilla Foundation and other people to offer web development and other courses. Sample creative assignment: draw the Internet!

Stian’s passionate about open access, open research, multiculturalism, peer-to-peer education, and other interesting things. He’s hooked into Mozilla Foundation and the Center for Social Innovation. What else can he look at and who can he talk to? Possibly related: Open Notebook Science, LearnHub, Third Culture Kids, DemoCampToronto (to show his peer-to-peer education site and ask for tips?)

Do these questions strike a chord with you? Get in touch with Stian and make cool stuff happen! reganmian.net

Offline and online conversations

Do you miss the serendipity of hallway conversations at conferences and events?

Online conversations can be more powerful than offline ones. Here’s why I think so.

In person, you start with people, and you look for common topics. Conversation participants all see each other. The possibilities are limited to who’s there and what you can discover in time.

Online, start with the topic you’re interested in. You find people, and people find you. The conversation goes on, asynchronously, for weeks, months, years.

I rarely talk to just one person about something. Most of the time, other people are interested. These people may have never met. The conversation brings them together. We learn even more.

I rarely talk to just people I know. Often, someone de-lurks and joins the conversation. People come in through searches or links. The conversation is much more open, more far-reaching.

This makes for interesting conversations. Amorphous, because I don’t know who’ll be in it or when it will end. Serendipitous, because we make unexpected connections. Efficient, because sharing serves many.

Do your online conversations look like this? How can you take advantage of being online? How can we translate these strengths into the offline world?

I’ll be away from Dec 30, 2009 to Jan 5, 2009. See you when I get back!

Conversations with a mentor: chat about plans, mentoring, and knowledge sharing

Conversations with David Singer are usually more laid-back, but I was buzzing with a few things I wanted to pick his brains about, so he graciously let me flood him with questions and ideas.

I shared my realization about what I want to do at IBM—or where I want to help take the organization, to phrase it boldly. I want to build a truly interconnected organization where people can work together and lead anywhere. I told David how my short-term plans support that goal, and he helped me think about medium-term options. He understands my passion for collaboration, so if he comes across opportunities that might be a good fit, he’ll be able to recognize them. I have a long timeline, and where I am is as good a place as any when it comes to making a difference. =)

Prompted by my recent reflections on mentoring, I asked David about his thoughts on mentoring.

David talked about the difference between formal and informal mentoring. Formal mentoring relationships usually develop from existing working relationships and focus on specific goals. Because it’s formal and usually involves working with a superior, people hesitate to start these kinds of mentoring relationships. They worry about being a burden. Informal mentoring could develop from lazyweb requests, friendships, blog connections, and so on. These relationships could turn into formal mentoring, or they might stay casual. Both parties learn a lot from the exchange, and the conversations are not only productive, but also fun. I’d like to have more informal mentors (it takes a village!) as well as build informal mentoring relationships with more people. That’ll be one of my objectives for 2010!

I also shared one of my other projects for next year: document and share what I’ve learned at work, or as much of it as I can. We talked about the difference between formal and informal knowledge sharing as well. I’m interested in sharing a lot more of the informal knowledge at work. Formal assets like presentations and papers are great, but a lot of insight is missing in the middle. Social media is a great way to find role models who work on sharing what they know. There’s so much to learn!

We talked about a lot of other things: seasons, USB drives, headsets, VOIP, holidays, life… Lots of fun!

Notes from a conversation with Isaac Ezer and Andrew Louis

Isaac and Andrew dropped by for tea and a wonderful conversation yesterday. =) Here are some rough notes from our conversation.

  • Experiments with outsourcing: Andrew had been interested in trying out something like that, but he hasn’t yet taken the plunge. I told them a few stories about things that work and a few things that don’t work so well, and I shared some tips on how to get started. (Start small. Be prepared to learn. Think of it as an iterative process.) Isaac might find it really useful to have an assistant manage his social calendar the next time that he’s in town for two weeks.
  • The importance of managing energy, both in terms of when you do work and who you hang out with. Happy people bring a whole lot to your life, while unhappy people cost energy. Friends are important. =)
  • Andrew told us how he works the equivalent of three days a week and spends the rest of the time attending events and living life. As a result, he gets to enjoy lots of opportunities just because he’s around. =)
  • Small talk as a game: Isaac and Andrew encouraged me to keep trying it, and shared that it’s something you can practice and get good at.
  • Personal contact relationship management: I described the system I have in Emacs and how I’ve been trying to find web-based equivalents (Google Contacts, LinkedIn, and Batchbook still don’t quite measure up). Isaac suspects there might be a business opportunity in there.
  • Culture: Isaac shared stories from Japan and Korea
  • Critical Mass: Andrew told us about the Critical Mass event last FRiday.
  • Personal finance: Andrew asked me if I bought the I Will Teach You to Be Rich book. I told him that personal finance books typically don’t address my situation, and we talked about what’s next (creating opportunities, enjoying life, and so on.)
  • Facebook: Andrew finds Facebook to be really useful for asking questions, although he doesn’t like it when people send him Facebook messages instead of e-mailing.
  • LifeCamp: We should have another one, with speakers this time. That would be cool! =)
  • Music: Isaac played a couple of pieces for us, hooray! He’s got a gig next weekend. Looking forward to it.
  • Entrepreneurship: Tokyo and Toronto
  • Swing dancing: good stuff, and not a bad filter for finding friends; the power of niche interests

… and lots of other good stuff, too.

Three people, three hours of conversation, and plenty of good things learned and shared. Looking forward to our next conversation!

Creative encouragement and following passion

Over lunch at the Craft Burger at Yonge and Bloor, Stephen Brickell and David Ing gave me advice about life, careers, and all sorts of other great things. (I’m such a lucky newbie!) Here’s a story from that conversation that I knew I just had to share with others.

Photo (c) 2007 grendelkhan (Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 License)

Stephen told me about the advice he had recently given Philip, his 18-year-old son. Philip had initially thought of taking engineering in university, probably because that was what he felt his parents wanted him to do. Stephen and his wife reminded their son that while they were happy to give advice, it was ultimately Philip’s decision, and he should take full responsibility for it. Stephen also shared how people who find and follow their passion end up doing much better than people who just focus on the money.

After a lot of consideration, Philip realized that he was really interested in horticulture. He worried that he’d regret taking horticulture instead of a more promising (and lucrative) career. What if he made a mistake and it wasn’t his passion after all? He didn’t feel that it wasn’t a university-type course, and he knew that his parents strongly wanted him to go to university.

Stephen told him that with global warming and other changes, food is going to become even more important – and an expertise in horticulture could very well be a way to make money. He also encouraged Philip to keep an eye out for opportunities to connect studies, entrepreneurship, and other things. For example, Philip enjoyed the culinary arts course he took in high school, and he could combine that with horticulture and entrepreneurship by growing restaurant-quality herbs in a greenhouse.

What I liked was the creative encouragement that Stephen gave. We’ve all heard advice to “do what you love and the money will follow,” but Stephen went one step further and helped Philip imagine concrete ways to make money doing what he loves.

What if Philip made a mistake and horticulture wasn’t what he really loved to do? Stephen reassured him that even if it was a perfect fit for him now, there’s still a chance that he’ll change his mind, grow out of it, or discover something new–and that’s okay. When that happens, Philip can just figure things out again. (And he might be surprised at how much of his skills he can transfer over to whatever new field he becomes interested in!)

I liked the way that Stephen made it clear that it’s okay not to figure everything out the first time around, and that life is about continuous learning.

What about university? Stephen said that he wanted his son to attend university because it would expand his mind. That said, Philip could go to university later, or take a business degree, or learn about all of these things later. Horticulture seemed to be a better fit at the moment, and the credits that Philip could earn there would be recognized by partner schools.

I liked the way that they had clearly thought out reasons for university, but they weren’t tied to the convention of university immediately after high school.

I’m glad Stephen shared that story with me. I asked him right away if I could share it with others, and he was happy to agree. There are a lot of interesting things in that story that I’d like to learn how to do well, particularly when it comes to encouraging others to find their passions and create opportunities.