Saturday, 16 March 2013

Blogs - creating shattering masterpieces or a foundation for creativity?

"All of us—the public, critics and composers themselves—spend far too much time worrying about whether a work is a shattering masterpiece. Let us not be so self-conscious. Maybe in 30 years’ time very few works that are well known today will still be played, but does that matter so much? Surely out of the works that are written some good will come, even if it is not now; and these will lead on to people who are better than ourselves."
 Benjamin Britten

This comment from the British composer Benjamin Britten affirms a truth for me about what is at stake in making a commitment to sharing expertise: it allows others to make their own connections and stimulate their own creativity...for composing read blogging.  

I was having a conversation with a colleague recently who was interested to know what value I had got from blogging.  For example, if it had generated business for my consultancy.  For him, it was a calculation as to whether the time investment was worth the effort.   And laying beneath the surface of the commercial value consideration was also a series of deeper questions and reflections like whether he had the self-discipline and commitment to keep it going - ‘how much time do you invest in your blog each week?’ 

The value question interested me; what value do I get from committing to making public my personal notes and thoughts? 

Sharing or not sharing both influence meaning making

There’s a word association game that you can play in a group.  The rules are one person starts with a randomly selected word and then other members follow the word either by adding another that is associated with it or, by deliberately breaking the association, choosing another word at random.  The process continues for as long as required.   

Two things will emerge: first, even though each team member can choose whatever word they want, it is in fact quite hard not to associate with the theme of the preceding words; or to put it another way others’ meaning making is stimulated by what others are saying and sharing.  The ordering can be broken but order returns quite quickly because we quite naturally reciprocate another’s thoughts and ideas.  Second, the flow of ideas is influenced not only by those who speak, but also by those who don’t.  The idea of silence making a contribution feels somewhat counter intuitive but this is exactly the effect that it has since it allows whatever word theme in play to continue uninterrupted. 

The implication for blogging is that unless we share what we are thinking, we leave a gap that prevents others from associating with or building on or stimulating their own ideas.

Free flowing conversation

One of the principal theoretical ideas that underpins my views about learning is the idea of free flowing conversation, which comes from the work of Ralph Stacey on complex responsive processes. 

Stacey is concerned with the communication of ideas and how meaning is created in a two-way process of free-flowing conversation.

What interests me here are the links and parallels to the act of blogging and sharing.  Although Stacey doesn’t write specifically about blogging as a complex responsive process, my sense is that it is simply another facet of communication and therefore part of the same concept.  The comments feature on blogs is akin to the naturally occurring processes of gesture and response in face-to-face conversation.  So the written medium provides a similar means for others to add their thoughts, which in turn stimulates further insights and creativity. 

Note taking on steroids

Writing things down helps me order my thoughts and I find the process the most important way of learning.  And by blogging it also provides me and others with a searchable database of knowledge.  My favourite blog on the value of social media and learning is by Donald Clark, or as he puts it 'note taking on steriods'.


Note taking in public  - creating masterpieces?

Britten touches something very important for me about a key blockage to any form of creative publication or presentation of one’s work -  ‘is my work worth publishing’, ‘is it good enough’, ‘if I spent longer on it, could I make it better?’

Like any other skill, my experience of blogging is that it gets easier and better with practice.  There is an art to writing something for others to read but in my mind this is less important.  We cannot know in advance whether what we have produced is a masterpiece or not.  Some posts seem to flow better than others, for sure, but what I do know, from what people tell me, is that they value the act of sharing.

Concluding thoughts

We all share our ideas quite naturally through conversation.  In the networked era of the 21C, social tools like blogs are opening up channels for us to share asynchronously what we know, have and think and to make connections with others who we may not know but who share an interest in our ideas.

Oscar Berg's collaboration pyramid creates a very succinct picture of the value creation opportunities of sharing.  I have learnt a great deal from reading others' blogs and it has encouraged me to reciprocate.

First and foremost value is being created for me and my learning.  The spin-off benefits of learning from others, connecting, creating commercial value are all possible but the first step is to share so that, to quote Britten, 'some good will come, even if it is not now'. 


Stacey, R.D. (2003) Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics: The Challenge of Complexity.  Harlow: Pearson
Image from Deposit Photos 
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