Monthly Archives: March 2015

Facilitation Network Weaving

Surprise! I Love Failure

As we design our new network, I’m very focused on learning. I’m reading books, reading blogs, asking friends, piloting ideas on groups where I volunteer, hiring a coach, and discussing challenges with colleagues.

Because we are inventing something new, I also want to learn from what we do. I’m encouraging activities that move our work forward, using structures that have short cycles so we can iterate and continually improve how we collaborate. To learn from and improve on every iteration, we need to instill a habit of reflection with everything we do.

For the last year, we’ve had “work groups.” The first ones didn’t go so well, so when they ended after a few months, I reflected on the challenges they’d had and redesigned for work groups 2.0 This round went much better.

I also requested an explicit reflection conversation at the end the second round, a half-hour conversation with each set of co-conveners. You can see some of their very rich reflections in this earlier post.

There was one surprise bonus I hadn’t expected from these conversations.

Creative Commons License, credit OtakuAnna

 

While I was very pleased with how the groups had gone, it seemed a few co-conveners felt they hadn’t lived up to their commitments. As the conversations began, regret or apologies rolled quickly off of tongues. The tone changed when I asked them to name what they were most proud of, list what had worked well, offer tips for others who would follow, and advise me on how I could better set up leaders.

After they named things like successful webinars, they offered something really valuable: what they had learned. What started out feeling like going to confession turned into contributing to NEWHAB’s success.

Sure, the content of the conversations will make the 3.0 version even more successful. But to my surprise, the most valuable lesson from these conversations is that taking time to learn from whatever happened transforms (perceived) failure into an important contribution to the network. People feel good leaving that conversation. And that’s a good place to begin building a network.

Facilitation Network Design Network Weaving

I Asked a few Questions; Wisdom Appeared

Lessons Learned

Credit: Kathy Choh of Management HQ

As we develop NEWHAB, we’re using short cycles of doing followed by reflection to quickly try out strategies and either make them better or decide they aren’t the right ones for us. Six months ago, we started our second round of “work groups,” having learned from some struggles on the first set.

When I solicited co-conveners then, I shared a summary of expectations:

  • approximately monthly work sessions with work group members,
  • share agendas for work group calls prior to meetings,
  • share notes, relevant information, and deliverables from work group sessions,
  • identify specific outcomes or deliverables for the work group (shaped by co-conveners in partnership with the work group) in the first month,
  • in the sixth month, suggest possible next steps for the conveners who will follow you and sharing useful information with them.

At the end of the six months, to reinforce the importance of reflection and learning from experience, I also asked each pair of co-leads to do a short phone call with me. I had a short list of questions.

  1. What was the most useful thing I did to help set up your group?
  2. What is your most proud outcome?
  3. What have you learned? What tips would you share with future group co-conveners?
  4. What could we (the network supporters) have done differently to be more helpful?

The conversations were wonderfully rich — and offered bonuses beyond the learning (I’ll share more about those in a future post). There were four big themes that emerged in all the conversations. read more »

Network Weaving Vocation

Well, Here’s How *I* Pay Rent with my Anthro Major

An urban anthropologist at work.

An urban anthropologist at work: may include testifying on urban issues for City Government.

 

I identify as an anthropologist, among other things. Anyone who ever studied anthropology, me included, needs an answer to, “What job can you get with an anthro major?” In jokes about useless majors, it ranks up there with art and philosophy. In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott took on the whole discipline, noting, “We don’t need them here.

Amy Santee, another applied anthropologist, writes about just this question on her blog, Anthropologizing. She has a series of posts titled, “Anthropologists in Practice.” I was pleased for the chance to reflect more on my anthropology training — and to answer the question of how I use an anthropology major to pay my rent — when she invited me to do an interview for the series.