In this post, I will focus on the why of Heroes Mingle, firstly by sharing four aspects of why our collaborative partnership works, secondly by discussing four things we have learned during our learning journey, and thirdly by sharing five concepts we’d like you to keep in mind as you begin your own professional development adventure.
Collaboration in action
Although we’d never met one another prior to Sally’s 2011 workshop, together we made something happen. We collaborated virtually to plan, develop and deliver our first online event, the 2012 Reality Librarianship speaker series. In spite of our geographical dislocation, in spite of not knowing one another, and in spite of not knowing if any of this could work or would work, in spite of not knowing if anyone would turn up, we still chose to make something happen.
Honesty and trust. Yes I can.
From the get-go, we were upfront about our individual skill sets. We talked about tangible practical things, like which technologies we had experience of and felt comfortable using, as well as whether or not we felt comfortable exploring other technologies that might best fit out needs. We talked about intangible things, like what scared us about doing this.
We made a commitment to be honest. If one of us said we were going to do something, we’d do it or we’d speak up about not being able to do it. This led to a commitment to trust one another. If I said “I will do [x] by [date]”, then Sally could trust that I would do it by the agreed timeframe.
Willingness to try and not afraid to fail. Yes I will try.
Being willing to try and being open to failure, or “non-success”, comes from being honest.
Honesty can be scary, but it can also be liberating. Owning up to your fears, giving them a voice takes away some of the power fear has over us.
Early on, Sally asked me what my measure of success was for the number of participants to attend our first speaker event in the Reality Librarianship 2012 series. I said that I would honestly be happy if three people (over and above the two of us and our speaker) turned up. I was sure that I could convince at least one or two friends to turn up.
While it might sound lacking in confidence to be satisfied with such a small potential turnout of participants, voicing my fears that still allowed me to acknowledge that I didn’t think that was a reason not to try.
We were both willing to try something that we had never done before. It wouldn’t really have been a failure had it not “worked”, because we still would have made something happen.
Playfulness and enthusiasm. Yes let’s do it.
Sally and I both had the willingness to make something happen. We were willing to try something that hadn’t been done before. We were enthusiastic, nervous and excited about trying something new, something different. We wanted to “make something happen”.
The freedom of possibility, the dream of potential, the inspiration of making something happen.
We truly believe that there are alternatives to the current status quo of staff development opportunities. We are willing to play with the dreams of what might be possible. Playfulness and enthusiasm go a long way to driving our dreams of making something happen.
Technology. Yes let’s use it.
Technology has been integral in our partnership from the very beginning. From the original telephone conferences to Skype and webinar software; from wikis and our blog to Twitter. However, we didn’t just use technology for technology’s sake.
We needed technology to make this work, because we weren’t making any of this happen face-to-face – either in terms of our planning or the delivery. Technology had to be an integral part of what we were doing from the outset.
We had specific needs for our various technologies – did we both feel comfortable using it?, did it have the functionality that we needed?, did it suit our purpose(s)? Having a list of must-haves, and what we could compromise on, was critical to choosing our online spaces, both our public spaces and our private spaces. Technology isn’t perfect. It crashes. It updates. It fails. It doesn’t always have all the functionality you want. Accept what you are willing to compromise on, and just go with what works best for your needs.
Heroes Mingle journey of learning
We’ve learned many things throughout this experience. Here’s four highlights.
Do things for yourself.
Make things happen because you want to. Doing things for ourselves has been one of the most rewarding parts of this journey.
Other people may join in, but ultimately, let your own drivers be the key motivation. It is up to everyone to create their own learning journey – so make sure you are doing this for you, and not anyone else. Give yourself permission to make things happen because you want them to. Not because your workplace says you should. Not because the professional association says you should.
We don’t all have supportive workplaces. We don’t all have workplaces that are able to support all the professional development opportunities that we want. We don’t all have workplaces that can afford to support professional development that isn’t directly related to our current jobs. Don’t let this stop you from creating the professional development opportunities you want.
Sally and I created Heroes Mingle for us. We developed the Reality Librarianship speaker events because we wanted to see hear about the interesting things that people were doing. We developed an online book group because we wanted to talk about The Atlas of New Librarianship. We invited others to participate and take control of their own professional development, to turn up because they wanted to, not because we told them to. At the end of the day, it was purely an invitation to join us. The fact that people turned up was pretty amazing, but we weren’t ultimately doing it for them. We were doing it for us.
Try. Fail. Try.
Find a way to make something happen. Dream of what might be possible. Having a willingness to try is a crucial part of making something happen.
So you try something. It might work. It might not. But you won’t know until you try. The reality is that “failure isn’t failure, it’s feedback” (via @feddabonn). Until you try something, you won’t know what is possible.
Say Yes. A lot.
Saying yes allows you to focus on the possibility of making things happen, even if you aren’t entirely sure what is possible.
Saying yes means owning what you can do, what you are willing to try to do, and what you are comfortable with failing to do.
Saying yes is a commitment.
Saying yes is exciting, and scary, but exciting nonetheless.
Face-to-face is not the only way to make something happen.
Professional development and learning opportunities no longer only have to happen face-to-face. Technology really has shrunk our world. However, the same philosophies of learning and engaging still apply.
We wanted to incorporate some of the philosophies that underpin face-to-face events – of participation, learning, engagement, being in the moment when the magic happens. Creating an online space where people are invited to turn up, and to use that space in the ways that they want and need to use that space. Creating connections, collaborating with others, learning new things. Heroes Mingle encouraged people to join in, in whatever way they felt comfortable, to engage with each another, to learn, to network, to make connections with the speaker and the other participants. People participated how and when they wanted to in the online space.
In the same way that we often hear, “oh you had to be there” about face-to-face events, we wanted to create a virtual place for this kind of connected “in-the-moment” magic to happen. None of our online events have been recorded. If you wanted to be part of it, you had to turn up. While this was originally a conscious choice on our behalf, primarily because we were focused on participation rather than creating a recording that could be listened to at some later stage in isolation (and also because of the extra work involved in editing a recording, syncing it with the chat transcripts), the functionality of recording an event was eventually removed from the free version of AnyMeeting.com webinar software.
The philosophy of “in-the-moment” underpinned our Reality Librarianship events. We didn’t have a script to follow. While we did have some pre-prepared questions or themes to discuss with our speakers, we didn’t know where the conversation would take us or what questions the audience might have. It was about being present in the moment, to see where the conversation would take us, and what magic might happen.
Start your own learning adventures.
Here’s five concepts that we’d like to pass on as you create your own opportunities.
Find your flockmates.
The term “flockmates” comes from one of our first speakers, Senga White, a secondary school librarian from Invercargill in New Zealand’s South Island. She explains on her blog that flockmates are “colleagues in your inner circle, professionally (though not exclusively) who really “get” you, where you’re at and what “floats your boat”.” Having a collective network of supportive colleagues is incredibly powerful, both personally and professionally.
A tribe of flockmates doesn’t have to be enormous. It only takes one other person so that together you make a tribe of two flockmates. A duo of flockmates might be all you need to make something happen.
So how do you find your flockmates?
In a world where the line between online and offline professional networks is often blurred, your flockmates might exist outside of your immediate physical environment. Sally and I didn’t properly meet until after we’d planned, developed and delivered the first Reality Librarianship speaker series.
Your flockmates might in the same town, state, region or country as you. Or they might not.
Your flockmates do exist, so if you haven’t found them, go out and find them. You could ask your own networks. Someone in your immediate network may know someone in their wider network who they can introduce you to.
If you are thinking about something, or questioning something, or pondering something, then it’s likely that others are too. Find those others who are asking the same questions as you.
Throw it open like Sally did. Ask a question – there might be someone who you never knew existed that self-selects and gets in touch.
Heroes Mingle may never have existed had Sally not been brave enough to ask the question “Do you dare to day yes?”
Heroes Mingle may never have existed had I not responded with “I dare to say yes”.
Flip your thinking.
As Sally has previously explained, we flipped our thinking to find a solution to an identified problem. We encourage you to reconfigure the way you are looking at the problem and redefine the way you are looking for a solution. Look for the alternatives. Challenge the preconceptions. Ask why? Ask why not? Flip your thinking.
There is no box.
We’re often told to “think outside the box”. Yet, in defining a box to think outside of, we’ve already created boundaries to our solutions by imposing parameters to the problem. We’ve predetermined limits of the possible solutions by imposing specific restrictions on what we can achieve. We’ve got to stop looking for the edges, the boundaries and the limits of what is possible.
During a discussion about Seth Godin’s book Poke the Box, one of my colleagues shared a simple but radical idea with me: There is no box.
Without a predefined box, there are no limits to what is possible.
Someone has to be first.
Great, so you’ve found your flockmates, you’ve flipped your thinking, and the box has disappeared. You are still going to need to do something else to make something happen.
Someone has to be first. Someone has to take that first step out into the unknown. It’s scary being first. It’s scary being at the edge of your comfort zone.
Our advice to you is this: Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now open your eyes and step out into the “unknown”.
The air is clear. The view is stunning. It’s a very exciting place to be. The opportunities ahead are endless. The path forward is unmapped. Adventure awaits, but to experience it, you are going to have to take the first step.
Give yourself permission.
Now that you have taken your first step forward. We’d like to offer one final piece of advice for your professional development adventure.
Give yourself permission.
Give yourself permission to create the opportunities you want. It’s your adventure. It’s your journey. Free yourself from being limited by what other people want or need or expect for you. It’s your career. Take ownership of what you need. Take ownership of your learning. Take ownership of your professional development opportunities.
Give yourself permission.
Find your flockmates. Find the opportunities. If the opportunities you want don’t yet exist, then create them. Make something happen. Choose your own adventure. Remember that there is no box putting limits on what is possible. You won’t know where the adventure will take you until you take the first step. This is your journey. Give yourself permission to do this.
Breathe. Step out into the unknown. Spread your wings. Learn to fly. http://goo.gl/kS1z
We wish you well on your professional development journey. We’d love to hear about your successes, your failures, your dreams, your learnings, your inspirations and your adventures.