Sometimes I don’t pay enough attention – to me. Yesterday I found I’d been prototyping part of my Style J leadership development process, and I wasn’t even aware of it.
I’d driven for an hour, to meet a new connection, not really knowing exactly what she wanted from me. Our agenda was loose, but we knew we’d both gain what we need.
I’d spoken to her over the phone, found out a little about her business, and she was keen for us to meet up, face to face to ask me some questions. This is usually the pattern of these meetings; a short introduction, we find a place of mutual understanding and the questions start flowing. It’s usually either about education, or what I’ve done to create my business, or about working overseas. It’s always because the learner has something in mind they want to do and are looking for ideas, examples, other connections or ‘ways to’. They basically use me as a resource in their particular learning process. Why type into a search engine when you can have coffee, a lunch or even cocktails with the equivalent in real life?
So back to yesterday. I met with Samantha and after ordering coffee, she took out a big project book and started to ask me question. She scribbled answers, drew diagrams, circled words and connected thoughts on paper. Every now and again I would ask a question or summarise key words, which helped to clarify her next question. At one point she asked me about my experiences with MOOCs (massive online open courses).
‘Which MOOC have you been doing lately?’
‘The course is called u.lab: Leading From The Emerging Future.’
‘What’s that about? Sounds intriguing, tell me more.’
‘One of the principles, if I’ve got it right, is that whatever I’m looking to do, I’m probably doing already, I just haven’t noticed yet. So maybe I need to pay more attention to what it is we’re doing today, what exactly is going on here, think about what specifically I’m doing.’ At the time I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing; I was too busy doing it.
We chatted for a couple of hours, aided by some good coffee, and some even better food. By the time we’d finished our pudding, time was up, our parking tickets expired.
Now I don’t know if it was the caffeine or all the sugar in my sticky toffee pudding, but I was on a high. I felt so energised as we parted. My mind was buzzing with ideas, great questions, thought provoking answers, as I remembered our words. And the drive home was my time to think, my time to reflect and process what I’d been doing.
What had I been doing? I’d met with a self-motivated, self-organised leader who used me as a resource to deepen her learning. I created the space, and the process for her to practice constructing, asking and refining the questions she needed to further her learning.
And then it came to me – Isn’t this part of my Style J leadership process? Creating the self-teaching part?
I had envisaged Style J leadership learning just as Sugata Mitra had described SOLElearning, with a computer at the centre of the process, but what if it can be done with real people too? What if other people and other ways of learning can be used as the resource, the search engine that produces the results? Isn’t the important thing the questions being asked by the learner?
I laughed out loud as I was driving. Other passing car and lorry drivers must have thought I was mad. Otto Schammer is right after all. Leading from the emerging future is recognising what I’m doing already. I’ve been prototyping parts of the process all along – the part where I facilitate leaders constructing exquisite questions to aid their own learning, or self-teaching. I hadn’t realised it before. I smiled the whole way home.
Now I’m wondering where else I can prototype.