Thursday, November 30, 2006

Knowledge Has Changed: 6 Big Ideas from George Siemens

In his plenary presentation this morning at the Educa Online Conference, George Siemens argued that knowledge has changed, here are some of his reasons (read more in his conference paper):

1. We create knowledge together
Today knowledge and knowledge products are created together, we are no longer passive consumers of knowledge created for us. BBC is starting YourNews which is inviting viewers to write their own news and share their own images on the BBC website, blurring the line between knowledge consumer and product. Zefrank's website on cultural entertainment features a weekly show titled Fabuloso Friday which the viewers who watch the episode write the script in a wiki.

2. The distributed "we"
We collect our knowledge in our friends rather than having to keep it all in our own heads (see last blog post).

3. Complexification
Some educators take a messy information space and simplify it for learning. This is not always a very accurate depiction of reality, but people seem to favour simplicity over accuracy. Now with blogs, we can complexify things again to get closer to accuracy. In order to act we need to simplify again to a series of choices; however now we can do both the complexification for understanding and the simplification for actions ourselves, rather than having to rely on a media reporter or a journalist to do it for us.

4. Recombination and Tools
We now have an "internet of things" whereby any aspect of physical space can be exposed to the internet. The internet probably knows what colour shirt we are wearing because it had an electronic RFID tag from the shipping to the point of sales. We are also seeing the "Thumb generation" which will eventually focus on mobile devices rather than PCs for knowledge transfer and connection.

5. Fluid product to process
George Siemens likened a book to a process that has been stopped. It is frozen knowledge, and shows a state of the debate where the conversation has been stopped. He felt that this does not work well when the underlying knowledge is rapidly changing. We need instead to keep the knowledge at the process stage, rather than the product stage, so that we can continue conversations in the knowledge space. (He has just published his new book in a wiki format.) Even courses are products that freeze knowledge, we need to make our learning environments more process oriented.

6. Fostered transformation
We should not adapt too quickly or be overreactive, and make changes that bind us to one space or technology. We should continue to experiment and continue our spirit of transformation and stay in line with the nature of change.

I Collect My Knowledge in My Friends: The Distributed "We"

Lizzie and I are at the Educa Online Conference in Berlin which brings together people working with all the weird and wonderful new online tools and technologies for learning. This will be the first of a series of blog posts on what we are learning and how we think it might be applied in our work.

George Siemens, author of Knowing Knowledge says that that a body of knowledge cannot exist in the head of one individual, there is too much and it is too complex. Therefore, we need to network our knowledge and rely on our network to collect and filter knowledge for us.

Charles Jennings, from Reuters, added that 40% of a knowledge worker's time is spent finding answers. So instead of spending so much time trying to keep up with a rapidly changing field yourself, it is better not to know - instead learn where to go when you need the information (instead of the information itself.) Networked learning is knowing where to go, who to go to, and to learn as you go. Especially in an environment where information changes rapidly, is complex, comes from distributed sources, and is for the most part itself technologically mediated.

It also means that you need to be more deliberate about what you are doing every day, so you can identify your knowledge needs and go for the specific information you need. Rather than trying to keep up with the ocean of information and letting its eternal flow to determine how you spend your day (reading email documents, filing or deleting it). What a relief, that takes about 100 emails out of my in-box!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why Do They Call Them Bullet Points?

The facilitator of our discussion asked the group to give her bullet points, but the man from Rwanda told her he would only give her stars...

Swimming in a Half-Empty Pool? Working in Different Enabling Environments

Ginka Tchavdarova from the National Association of Ministries in Bulgaria spoke at the Conference "Capacity Strategies: Let the Evidence Speak" about the conditions for decentralised development. She gave the case of Bulgaria where initially responsibilities were transferred to communities and leaders, and later (10 years later), the rights associated with the responsibilities were transferred. She used the analogy of "swimming in a half-empty pool" to describe that long interim period.

Sometimes we are working in situations where the enabling environment is not quite there, it is somehow missing a couple of feet of water, and you can splash around a great deal but you cannot really swim. To take this analogy a little further...

When do we see cases where responsibilities are given, and rights are not there? Perhaps the titles are not there in addition to the associated rights, or maybe these are Acting swimmers. What kind of enabling environment is created for those people to do good work?

If you really want to swim that might be frustrating. At the same time, is there another way to see it? Can the swimmer see the pool as half full (it's not empty, right?) Can the swimmer use that time to practice her/his strokes so that when the water does come, they can swim even faster? At the same time, the water needs to come in good time, otherwise the swimmer will be so tired from practising that when the water does come...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Express Yourself Through Celebration: Social Movements and Social Change

"When the imagination is unleashed, change happens." This is what John Samuel, International Director of ActionAid noticed throughout his Stand Up Against Poverty Campaign in India and other places where millions of people joined the antipoverty campaign in many creative ways, from concerts, events, and other cleverly branded activities. Speaking at the conference mentioned in the previous post, he encouraged people to "unleash the power of people with a sense of agency." This is not your typical concert-going crowd, it is one with agency, which is the sense of being in action, or being instrumental in some cause. (

Another speaker, Antonio Campo Dell'Orto, Managing Director of MTV South Europe, talked about the "No Excuse 2015" Voices Against Poverty Campaign, which MTV in Italy has taken on air and into classrooms and other venues in Italy. This essentially youth campaign, has used creative anti-poverty advertising spots, bracelets, pop icons and electronic technology to get millions of Italian young people interested and involved in the Millenium Development goals (

These are two examples of creating social movements for social change, using activities that people want to do, that they want to use their own time and energy to participate in, and that are fun. John Samuel encouraged people to "express yourself through celebration" rather than through complaint or disengagement.

Does this work at all levels of society - even the institutional level?

Ballroom Learning and Large Groups: Using Socratic Questioning

Can it be, Ischomachus, that asking questions is teaching? I am just beginning to see what is behind all your questions. You lead me on by means of things I know, point to things that resemble them, and persuade me that I know things that I thought I had no knowledge of.

— Socrates (Quoted in Xenophon's "Economics")

I am sitting in a hotel ballroom with 140 people at a conference titled, "Capacity Development Strategies: Let the evidence speak" and the level of some of the participants has dictated a certain room layout and format - we have a head table with four speakers and 140+ people sitting shoulder to shoulder behind tables in the room. There are a number of international speakers sharing their knowledge about issues such as: Capacities for local development, Capacity development at work, etc. When the speakers are finished with their interventions, they stop, and the chair asks for questions from the audience. A couple of questions are asked and answered. They come from different people and are unconnected. The Rapporteur works to identify threads and lessons from the session. The purpose of the meeting is to draw some new insights from the speakers and the group about these critical issues, and to exchange knowledge so we can all learn.

If learning is the goal, and this formal room layout is a given, how might we best work with this format for optimal exchange?

One possibility might be to structure the Q&A session differently. How different might the post-speaker discussion be, if the speaker asked the audience the questions instead? Would it be more focused? Would it help people in the audience connect what the speaker said with their own experience and help them share their opinion? Would it focus the discussions and shed some new light on the subject for everyone with more contributions from the floor?

We use the Socratic method in workshops to lead people into discussions on issues that help them explore what they already know and build on it with the experience of their peers. Could this method work in this ballroom as well? And if we were using this ballroom for what it was built for (dancing, celebration, conversation) would we be interacting and sharing more?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Rules of the Game: Understanding the Unknown

A colleague and I wait by the large gorilla statue in the entrance hall. Dumisani Nyoni joins us. As part of our Exploring Change Processes workshop, Dumi is introducing us to a game used by Pioneers of Change (

Right, says Dumi, It’s simple. I would like you to go into the room and try to figure out what’s happening. Try to figure out the rules of the game. Speak about what you see and what you think is going on. Keep talking so everyone else has an idea of what is going through your mind. Doesn’t sound too hard.

We return to the workshop room as the game begins and we set to solving this little mystery. We see everyone walking around, weaving in and out of the tables and chairs. The pace changes – sometimes almost coming to a standstill and then speeding up again. People watch others in the room, changing direction. Arms fold and unfold. Hands go in and out of pockets. Something purposeful is going on – but what?

Five minutes later, Dumi thanks us all and asks us to return to our seats. Did we figure out what everyone was doing? Did we figure out the rules of the game? - Dumi asks the two of us. No. And we begin to explore how it felt to be outsiders to the game, trying to figure out the rules.

Eventually the rule is revealed: All thirty people in the room (the players) were asked to secretly select two others and stay equidistant from them throughout the game. (See: How Do You Play Yours? The Change Game).

Now, a couple of days later, I’m wondering – Why didn’t we figure out the rules of the game? This wasn’t a question we really probed during the workshop itself, yet I think it is a powerful question.

In terms of the players: To what extent did the players want us to figure out the rules of the game? What were their objectives? Did they wish to help us understand the system or to prevent us from doing so? And what motivation lay behind?

And more importantly (to me at least right now): What could we – the outsiders - have done differently to increase the likelihood of figuring out the rules of the game?

How would the outcome have been different had we asked questions directly to the players? And what would have been the right questions to ask them? Would the players in the game have been able to answer our questions? And would they have felt at ease doing so? What could we have asked Dumi, the game leader, in order to clarify the rules governing our play?

How would it have been different had we stepped into the game (albeit not knowing the rules) rather than observing from the sidelines? What would the reactions of the other players have been? Would we have learned more by trying to get inside the game as it unfolded?

I won’t know now, but next time I’m trying to figure out the rules of the game I might take a different approach. What approach would an expert change consultant take?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is This the Storming Stage?

You derailed a conversation in a meeting;
You made an unfair comment;
You spoke with too much emotion and not enough forethought;
Was that me?
What's that all about?

What was it about those conversations that made me react like that?

What does the team leader think of this situation?

"Soon, reality sets in and your team moves into a "Storming" phase. Your authority may be challenged as others jockey for position as their roles are clarified. The ways of working start to be defined, and as leader you must be aware that some members may feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, or uncomfortable with the approach being used. Some react by questioning how worthwhile the goal of the team is and resist taking on tasks. This is the stage when many teams fail..."

This is a passage I took from psychologist Bruce Tuckman's 1965 description of the development process that teams go through (Norming, Storming, Forming and Performing). This is really resonating with me right now.

The storming stage makes me feel uncomfortable. At the same time, it is a new team, we don't know each other very well, and we are getting familiar enough now with one another to start to express a diversity of opinions even about very fundamental principles.

That could be the basis for an open conversation with the team leader. I can also apologize. What can I do right now to help us move through this stage and on to the norming and performing stages?

If this is the storming stage, I look forward to what comes next...

How Do You Play Yours? The Change Game

What was your experience? Dumisani Nyoni asks. What did you think and feel as you were playing the game?

The game had been simple. All thirty people in the room were asked to select (secretly) two others and stay equidistant from them throughout the game. Meanwhile two 'outsiders', unaware of the rules of the game, would come in and try and figure out the rules of the game. The reactions of the 'inside' players were diverse:

• I was simply focused on the task of keeping equidistant from the two players I had selected without letting them know I had picked them. It felt very egocentric and at the same time I found it fun.

• I found the game frustrating. I just wanted everyone to stop moving in the hope that I could stop also. I was frustrated by the effect of the other players on my game.

• Whilst playing the game, I wondered which of the other players had selected me and was trying to figure out what effect my movement was therefore having on others in the game.

• Finding the task simple and a little boring, I considered how the game might be changed and how I might bend the rules in order the achieve this.

• I puzzled over the relationship between the game, my life and work, asking myself how much choice I have and considering the implications of breaking the rules.

I found this really interesting. One game; one rule; multiple experiences. What a complex thing a game can be. Like with most systems in which we live and work, we make sense of it and interact with it in so many different ways. Sometimes we 'go with the flow'. Sometimes we want the system to change and yet make no effort to change it. Sometimes we try to understand the system and figure out how we can change the system into one that works better for us, or for others involved. Other times we don't want to be a part and ask ourselves – how can I get out?

How can the game metaphor help me think about the systems in which I am living and working? What game(s) am I playing? How am I playing the game? And what do I think and feel about it?

What's my game? And what's yours?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What Do Change and Strip Poker Have In Common?

Chuck Phillips, a change management consultant for major institutions and corporations in the USA, was a lively speaker during our recent meeting on Deep Change Processes. He started his presentation with an activity that some people likened to strip poker...

Two people face each other and take an "inventory" of the other person. Look them up and down and notice everything you can about their appearance.

Now, turn your backs to one another and listen. An important client of yours tells you that to keep up with the market, your company needs to change its appearance, and asks you to change five things about your appearance before you turn back to your partner. What do you change? Most people took off their glasses, they took off their watches, their earrings and rings, rolled up their sleeves, and unbuttoned their shirt. When they turned back to their partners, each had to guess what 5 things had changed.

Now, turn your backs to one another again, and listen. This client tells you that the market is extremely tight, and more serious changes need to happen. In order to keep up with the competition, you need to change 5 more things about your appearance. People complain. They struggle to think of what they can change. They take off their shoes (that's two), they take off a sock (one more), they stop and think - what more can I take off? "Hey, this is like strip poker", someone shouts to nervous laughter. Now what? Fold up one trouser leg, stick up your collar (that's five). We turn around again and try to guess the five things that have changed.

Now turn your backs AGAIN and listen...We're going to go out of business in this current cutthroat business climate, your client says, unless you can change 8 more things about your appearance. Rioting ensues, well almost, as people cannot even imagine what more they could take off, take away, shorten. Then it starts to occur to people - can we change our smile, can we put things on - that sweater, that guy's hat? Can we sit down or stand up? Yes to all of those!

What is it about change that makes people assume that they need to lose something, cut something, or take something away? Does it have to be like that? How can we get people to see change as an opportunity to add things, to change the way we see the world (sit down, turn around), to get some ideas from other people (what is that guy changing, hey, good idea), or swap things with someone else so we both look different?

As I sat in a different meeting today and heard about budget changes and saw the subsequent taking away - of positions, of projects, of offices - I asked myself what do change and strip poker have in common? And does it need to be like that?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Generating a new relationship and behaviour: me and my work

Multiple definitions exist for the transitive verb 'to generate', all of which have to do with positive change and the emergence of something new. When we talk about positive change in the world, we talk of generating new relationships and new behaviours. Yet to what extent are our personal and professional practices generative?

Many of our interactions centre around dialogue – bringing together people seeking to make change through conversation and agreement. Indeed this is the focus of the Generative Dialogue Project (, and on Friday, Bettye Pruitt joined our meeting exploring change processes and ran a session considering the extent to which our dialogue practices are and could be generative.

Following a short breathing exercise to calm and focus everyone after the coffee break, Bettye grouped us into small 'pods' of four chairs in a tight circle. She posed three questions:

1) What opportunities do you see for generative dialogue processes in your work? And what are your highest aspirations for what these might produce?

2) What factors are supporting a shift to using more generative dialogue processes in your work? And what are the challenges?

3) What do you personally need to change in order to implement more generative processes in your work?

Within each group of four, we explored these questions, one at a time in rotating pairs with one person in the pair talking for three minutes, followed by the other person in the pair. Returning to plenary, the group then came together to answer a further question:

From this experience, what is different? What new knowledge do you have and how are you going to use it going forward (i) in this meeting; and (ii) beyond?

This was a great, generative exercise for the morning of the first day of the meeting. Why? Because we had the opportunity to get to know one another as we spoke (uninterrupted) and listened to another (without interrupting), sharing thoughts for three minutes on each of the three questions. Because we focused on opportunities, aspirations and supporting factors (very appreciative!). Because we had a space and time for reflection. And, most importantly, because we focused on what we personally need to change.

I found the focus on the 'I' extremely powerful and empowering - helping me to see more clearly my personal role in my professional environment and making me articulate what I, personally, need to start changing today if I want my work to be more generative!

Participating or Being Participated?

The notion of the Trojan Horse approach stuck in my mind following the earlier post. What is the relationship between the way an initiative is framed, the extent to which the objectives are made explicit, and participation in it? And what is the 'right', socially responsible approach to take?

Change is constant and we are all participants (whether aware and willing or otherwise) in multiple, simultaneous change processes. How are these processes framed? How aware are we of the objectives? And are we (actively) participating or (passively) being participated ?

The idea of participating or being participated is one that recurred during the World Congress on Communication Development ( I wonder now - How does the framing of initiatives determine our active participation in them and affect the amount of energy and enthusiasm we choose to bring? And how are we framing our initiatives?

Framing Change: The Trojan Horse Approach?

"It is not always necessary to frame initiatives as part of a sustainability movement in order to get people to think about the environment and peace" said Junko Edahiro, initiator of the Candle Night Campaign ( which started in Japan in Summer 2003. Turn off the lights; Take it slow are the key messages of this campaign, for which more than five million people in Japan and around the world turn off their lights for two hours on the summer and winter solstices annually. "People are often willing to spend their time and money to become happier – not to become a sustainable citizen. Sometimes the 'Trojan Horse' approach can therefore be the best way to communicate with non-experts when seeking environmental sustainability" explained Junko.

I was interested by the issue of framing. How would participation in the Candle Night Campaign have been different had it been framed as the Save Energy or Think Peace Campaign? Would people have responded to these worthy causes as much as they did to the more personal Take it slow message? In a way, it is easier to see the impact of Take it slow than it is to see the impact of Save energy or Think peace? And maybe this is a good way to practice doing things together?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Our Story, Our Choice

In the next few days no doubt we will be writing a lot about a recent meeting we held on "Exploring Deep Change Processes: Learning from Around the World". As I work through my reflections, I thought I would start with the discussion about how much choice we really have about how we see our own past, present and future.

One of our speakers was Ulrich Goluke, from blue-way, who is a scenarios and systems practitioner. He urged us to think about the future in a deliberate way and to have the courage to choose and develop for ourselves a set of possible scenarios for our futures. He prefaced his contribution with a short game, described below:

In pairs, take two minutes each to tell the story of your life to your partner as though it was a heroic one.

In the same pairs, take two minutes each to tell the story of your life to your partner as though you were a victim.

For many of the participants, this exercise was a "Wow" (we collected "wows" at the end of the workshop.) Why did this short exercise mean so much to people? It was incredible that with the one data set (our lives) we could frame the same sequence of life experiences so convincingly and so truthfully as both a heroic endeavour, and as a victim. Where one moment we were proud of where we were and our future, and four minutes later, we lamented the fact that we had only come this far due to events that kept us from living to our full potential.

This really showed how much choice we have in how we project ourselves into the world in the present and in the future; how we tell ourselves stories that can either celebrate a life, or despair it. Ultimately, we can choose the story we want to tell, and it can lift us up, or bring us down. It's our choice...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Helping Other People Do Great Work

Anyone who organizes learning events and meetings knows that often intermingling in the same room are some people who know each other well, and some first-time guests, who are there to contribute new insights, generate some inspired discussion, and generally help enrich the group's learning about a specific issue.

The meeting we are holding at the end of this week which will focus on change processes has this composition, as did the meeting I went to last week (see blog entry on Thursday, 2 November "A Courtroom or a Concert?") The difference is that at this week's meeting I will be one of the existing group members, whereas last week I was the guest.

So how transferable was my experience last week and what can it prompt me to learn about how to help our guest speakers do great work for us at the upcoming workshop?

When I have made useful contributions into other people's meetings here are a few things that have helped:
* I joined the group several hours before my intervention, so that I could get to know the group and how they interact;
* I had a very clear idea of the goals of my session and the organizers helped me get specific on the desired outcomes;
* The session was introduced by an "insider" and they linked my contribution directly to the rationale of their meeting, and linked it again with a summary at the end;
* The session was well placed in the agenda for its purpose, i.e. if it was a brainstorming session, it happened when people were fresh and creative (first thing in the morning). A reflective discussion was after a sequence of inputs, etc. (later in the day);
* I had numerous exchanges with the organizers prior to my intervention to craft the key messages.

I see from the above, that none of these actions are things that I could do alone. In every case, there was a partner or counterpart in the insider group that provided necessary guidance that helped me do great work.

Now I am the insider in our meeting starting on Friday, how many of these things have I done so far? What more could I do in the next few days that could make all the difference for a first-timer, to create an environment where people are proud of their contributions, others appreciate it, and generally helps everyone do great work?

I think I need to pick up the phone...

Using Storytelling to Generate Ideas: We Just Went to a Great Staff Meeting - What Happened?

If you read the blog post on 19 October, this title will sound familiar. That blog post was inspired by a discussion with a few colleagues after a staff meeting. Some ideas were already popping up on how these kinds of gatherings could be even more interesting and contribute to good dialogue within the institution. We decided to take this a step further and use our own communications unit meeting to generate additional creative ideas, and then to share them with the team who is responsible for our staff meetings. We imagine that these ideas will be read with as much enthusiasm as produced them!

Here was our question: You just went to a great staff meeting - you left excited, energised and hopeful. Tell us - what happened?
We first worked in pairs to create our stories, then shared them with each other. Here are some of the ideas that emerged:

• The staff meeting has changing chairs/facilitators – sometimes the DG, sometimes other management, or staff members lead the meeting.
• A different programme/unit hosts each staff meeting and uses it as a creative event. They use visuals (ppt or video with little text) as people enter the room to promote or update people on their programme. They run a warm-up, facilitate the news and reporting, and use a few minutes of the time for an “ad-break” on their programme. We give an award to the best staff meeting of the year at the Christmas party (people vote for it). Sometimes departments partner to put on their staff meeting so as to encourage cross-department collaboration.

Format of the meeting
• At the beginning of each staff meeting there is a 5-minute warm up to get people’s attention (breathing, tai chi, something fun etc.)
• The free coffee morning is changed to right after the staff meeting to encourage people to talk about the meeting and what they heard.
• There are different formats using interactive exercises for discussion components. For example, people make one minute interventions and then go into different corners of the room and invite people to discuss further, so they are “opt-in” discussions.
• Creative sharing is promoted in the staff meetings, and discussions are held that generate ideas about things of interest to staff, that explore a major issue, or use voting for more inputs by staff.

Reporting and updates
• Reports are not always made by the Heads; other staff members also get to report.
• Reporting uses more visuals, including “advertisements” of new products of which we are proud. Little text is used in the visuals, and more emphasis is put on pictures, cartoons and things to remember.
• Reports are delivered as if they were news items – answering the question, “What’s attractive for people? What is newsworthy?”
• The reports have a limit of 2 minutes (some people say 1 minute!) and a bell or a timer goes off when the time is up.
• The reports are interesting, humorous, engaging – the audience “votes” at the end of a report by clapping and that instant feedback incentivises the staff reporting.
• In reports, some parameters are set – such as that people cannot talk about “where, when or who”, only about “what they have learned and the key messages to staff.” Reports are forward looking and not backward looking, giving staff an idea of what we want to achieve and inviting engagement and discussion.
• Not only technical people take the lead; we also hear from general management, finance, cafeteria, etc. We consider what is interesting to ALL the staff.

Updates on non-programme and non-work activities
• Staff share what is going on in management – using the meeting to achieve even greater transparency on current debates in management.
• Space is given to support staff to share their news items.
• An “open-mike” system is used to allow people to share their news.
• Each staff meeting includes both work-related reports and also updates on people’s lives: births, announcements, weddings, etc.
• Staff meetings include 5 minutes at the end on social aspects such as how to make life exciting in our area (local events, announcements etc.)

Certainly there are great staff meetings in other institutions, what other experiences are out there? Even this 20 minute creative exercise was an example of how a staff meeting can give energy and contribute to our learning about how to do things differently.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Art of Networking and Being Beautiful

Sticky croissant in my left hand, coffee in my right, congress programme tucked under one arm and computer bag precariously balancing on the shoulder of the other, I awkwardly weaved in and out of the people thronging in the ‘Atrium’ until I found some breathing space by the outer wall, along side a documentary photo exhibit. Looking onto the jostling Congress ( participants from this 'safe' spot, I found myself in a conundrum: Do I put on my networking hat, offer my sticky fingers to others and muster my best opening line in the hope of kick-starting a conversation to identify common interests and future possibilities? Or, do I busy myself with carefully examining the photo exhibit beside me – "Communication in the Disaster Zone" and drink my coffee in peace?

Day one, coffee break one – I allowed myself the photo exhibit, full in the knowledge that in those that followed I would need to step into networking mode (something which doesn’t come very naturally to me). As I did so I began thinking about a book I’d just come across whilst scouring the airport bookshelves on my way: Edward de Bono’s How to Have a Beautiful Mind (2004) ( "The beautiful mind… is a mind that can be appreciated by others – usually through conversation… Just as people can look at your physical beauty they can listen to the beauty of your mind… If you want to make your mind more beautiful you can. It is not a matter of innate intelligence or great knowledge. It is how you use your mind that matters" – read the intro.

Thinking about this book and about the Congress of which I would be part for the next three days, I began wondering about the link between natural networkers and 'beautiful minds'. I believe that there is at least some link, whilst additional factors are certainly at work (introvert versus extrovert tendencies for example). I guess the question is: Do all good networkers have beautiful minds? And if so, do they have beautiful minds because of what they have learned from the many conversations they have had as good networkers? Or did they start with beautiful minds which have made them good conversationalists and therefore good networkers?

What would improving our networking skills contribute to beautifying the mind? And how would developing a more beautiful mind - and more 'beautiful' conversations - enhance the networker within? I will sign up for the makeover and let you know.

A Courtroom or a Concert?

What is the difference between a courtroom and a concert?

A courtroom is a place where people are being questioned for holes in their argument, for inconsistencies in their stories. People attend expecting not to believe one side or the other. It is a place where for the most part people's minds are made up, and it will take a very powerful argument or some remarkable new evidence to change an opinion. The person speaking is either the accused or the witness, and the person asking questions is the defense or the prosecution. Courtrooms, I can imagine, are rather stressful environments. People probably don't get up in the morning excited about going to court.

A concert, however, is a place where people go to expect to hear and be a part of something they will enjoy. They go to be transported by their thoughts, to be taken back to meaningful moments in their past and to hear some new things that they fully expect to love. Everyone is united in their appreciation of the person speaking or singing, and that person is energised by this openness and desire from the audience to participate in a transforming event. The person speaking or singing is an artist, someone who brings a unique message or delivery to an idea, and the people attending are expecting to enjoy themselves. Concerts, for the most part, are exciting and appreciative environments. People do get up in the morning excited about going to a concert.

Someone might say that the purposes of the two are different - courtrooms are there to make important decisions that affect people's lives. However, aren't concerts similarly generative gatherings? How many artists and authors, and people generally have been inspired by music? How many people have been buoyed to action by music?What comes out of concerts is often joy, thoughtfulness, creativity and inspiration.

If I was going to run an important meeting, which environment would I want to create? How would I want my participants and speakers to feel when they left the room? What would I want people to get out of it? Would it be a zero sum gain, or would it be a step of a creative, hopeful process? When I sent out my next invitation for the group to meet again, what would be people's reactions? Would they be excited that their favorite group was holding a concert again? Or would they dread the eyes of the jury?