Fractures (Small Acts of Generosity / Small Acts of Mutiny)

“The world as we know it is built on a story. To be a change agent is, first, to disrupt the existing Story of the World, and second, to tell a new Story of the World so that those entering the space between stories have a place to go.”  Charles Eisenstein 

If the purpose of change agents is to facilitate transition from one story to another, I like the idea of initiating the process with Small Acts of Generosity & Small Acts of Mutiny. imageExperiences which create schisms. Fractures. Fissures in the dominant story. Chinks of light. Apertures into a new story. Invitations to a different way of being. They are the moments of clarity, glimpsed on the way down. They are the practical actions creating experiences which don’t quite fit. The ‘irrational’ cameos that seemingly make no sense.

Small Acts are on the one hand giving; on the other, refusing. Unexpected generosity; uncomfortable mutiny. This is not revolution. These are just Small Acts. Gentle nudges. Harmless, yet potentially transformational. A slow puncture in life as we know it. The seeds of a new way. The rôle of change agents is to sprinkle these seeds and nurture them.

10% Days (#10pcday) are an attempt at a two-in-one Small Act of both Generosity and Mutiny. It is a baby step on the path towards a potentially big shift. What if everyone took a 10% day? What if 10% became 20%, or 30%? What if “gift work” experiments on 10% days became the norm everyday?

Small Acts are not theoretical. They are practical. The only talking is about what you are doing and how it went. Small Acts are not desktop punditry or soap box rhetoric. They are evidence of full and active commitment.

Working Out Loud (#WOL) is potentially another two-in-one Small Act. It is a generous commitment to share and to help, beyond what is required in your job description. It is also a declination. A refusal to constrain yourself to the established mode of operating. This is my favourite example of full commitment Working Out Loud by serial experimenter and Small Acts grand master, Jonathan Anthony: Working Out Loud Under The Stairs.

Small Acts are about doing what feels right, not what is expected. They are about doing what is important, not what is urgent. They are about stepping out of the shadows and being bold.

Anyone can commit to a Small Act. They don’t require upheaval or high risk. They don’t require a project team. They are simple ways that anyone can get on with it, right now.

What do you do to initiate change?

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Change Agents DIY

In the 90’s, everyone wanted to be a DJ. I shared a room with one at University and, inevitably, became one too. When I moved to London the running joke was: “You’re never more than 6ft away from a DJ

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These days, the same might be said of “future of work” experts. More and more people are getting involved. But there’s something about the monetisation of this area which feels a little awkward to me.

Perhaps this is the reason why…

One of the changes foreseen in ‘the future of work’ by The Responsive Organisation is a shift from extrinsic rewards to intrinsic motivation. That sentiment was evident when so many people gave up their Saturday last week to attend the London event, unpaid. Gifting your spare time, ideas and energy to the community is, after all, how networks outperform closed systems. That works great when we’re all in it together. But in a market environment where others are seen as competitors and competitive advantage is perceived to be vested in ideas, identity, time and resources, does the spirit of sharing and helping others in the network break down? How can we remove some of those obstacles and promote the Gift Economy principles which underpin working as a community?

One avenue could be committing to give away our spare capacity. In the legal profession, barristers and solicitors regularly give up their time to represent others and provide training, and the same thing happens in many other areas of work. I wonder whether there would be appetite for “change agents” to offer their full commitment, for a part of their time, on a voluntary or pro bono basis, to help organisations do it themselves?

Back in the day, there wasn’t really much money to be made out of DJing, other than for the ‘elite’. But that wasn’t the point. It was a passion. What became obvious though, was that DJing isn’t that mysterious. Like many things, belief and commitment will take you a long way. I remember hearing stories about a guy who passed himself off as one of the high paid superstars and got booked to do gigs up and down the country. The irony being that he was, by all accounts, pretty good and the people who heard him weren’t at all disappointed. With a bit of guts, I thought, anyone could do it themselves.

To support the shifts happening in work, I’m committing 10% of my time, as a gift. I’m not a superstar, but I do have a passion for change. If you would like me to come to where you are to discuss organisational development, let me know.

#caDIY

Meaning 2012

This week I attended Meaning Conference 2012 in Brighton. There are lots of great reviews of the event drawing out the headlines. And if you check out #meaningconf on Twitter, it’s pretty much all there! Instead, I wanted to share a personal take on why the event itself had meaning for me.

A few years back, I left the UK and went to Milan to learn Italian. I ended up promoting music events, which was a complete departure from my previous job. But it was great, because I got to design the concept (oltrepassare i confini) and I got to book and play alongside some of the artists I admired. So it was something of a childhood dream that I was living out. I had a whole lot of fun, learnt a lot about the events business and extended my network.

This is why I had some empathy for Will Mcinnes and the team that organised this event.

In the lead up to the day, it was fun following their personal excitement on Twitter. Here’s a couple of examples.

Given the inevitable tension of putting on an event like this it was a pleasure to be greeted in the foyer by Will like an old friend (it was the first time we had met). I thought Will’s opening speech set the scene brilliantly. What came across to me was genuine, articulate passion and excitement. Taking to the stage in socks – thanks to a foot injury – just added humility, humour and some “against-the-odds-grit” to the  mix.

Talking to some of the delegates and speakers during and after the event there was a general sense of positivity, mixed with a certain amount of ‘grappling’ with the overall concept. The varied combination of speakers and content seemed hard, for some, to immediately reconcile. More typically, business events tend to be focused on technology or a traditional market sector / business niche. For me, that was one of the great things about Meaning: the fact that it crossed so many boundaries.

Whilst some may have been trying to figure out how the lessons from the day could be used to grow business and make money, I think that there was a bigger point being made. In fact, there was an interesting contrast in messages early on. Caroline Lucas questioned the sustainability and validity of economic growth. Then in the following presentation, David Hieatt talked about the need for business growth.

Talks spanned the range of perspectives: macro views from Caroline Lucas, Vinay Gupta, Stowe Boyd and Indy Johar; organisational and team perspectives from David Hieatt, Pamela Warhurst and Margaret Elliott; and some personal insights from Karen Pine, Alex Kjerulf and Luis Suarez.  We moved from global environmental issues through workplace cooperatives right down to simply taking a walk or setting aside 1 minute to close your eyes and breathe.

I find thinking about the global context of working life both essential and daunting. But spending too long dwelling on the big picture can make you feel quite small and powerless. So it was great to have plenty of real and practical examples of individuals making a difference.

And this is why one of my enduring memories from the event were the glimpses of the organising team’s experience. It was an object lesson in doing something at work with personal meaning. Towards the end of the day, at the post-event party in a local pub, I noticed Will and the team gathered round a table to eat, drink and talk. It would have been easy not to stop, and keep focusing 100% on the delegates and speakers. But it felt like a much more grounded way to wind down from the day for those closest to it, and I can imagine that it must have been a sweet moment.

I’d just like to say thanks to Will and the whole Meaning team for putting this event on and bringing speakers and guests from across the World, right to our doorstep.

Looking forward to next year!