I have been consulting for over twenty years. I was originally drawn to consulting because I saw it as a way to transform people’s lives for the better. Why be miserable at work when we spend more than half of our waking hours there? Why not have more fun at work and get more fulfillment? Why not have businesses make money and contribute to making the world a better place?
Though many books have since explored these questions, I am still surprised by how many organizations continue to consider them irrelevant, and therefore miss opportunities to create a more innovative, adaptable, and committed workforce.
Early on, I learned that groups of humans could be smarter together than they can be alone. I also saw that groups could make a much bigger difference together than individuals could alone. I discovered the simple act of aspiring to do something beyond making money yields disproportionate commitment and creativity.
My quest became, “How do we help leaders and groups — be they leadership teams, organizations, or multi-stakeholder groups — think more imaginatively about the future, dream bigger dreams, and find the courage and tenacity to turn their new visions into reality?”
When I left Monitor over 2 years ago, I could have remained an independent consultant, focusing on what I know best — executive coaching and organizational development — or gone back to being an internal consultant. However, my quest was not complete. I wanted to build an organization that was consistent with my aspirations for what is possible in the realm of work that would give me a chance to “walk my talk.” I also wanted to have a bigger impact, through mentoring and developing others as they followed a similar path.
Two people strongly influenced the next chapter of my quest: First, working with Pete Leyden, the enthusiastic founder of Next Agenda. He introduced me to the idea of using online platforms to extend meetings in time and space, so that more people could participate over a longer period of time and the conversation could go deeper.
The second was working with the extremely competent Eugene Eric Kim, who co-founded Groupaya with me. Pete hired Eugene because he had loads of experience with using online platforms to support collaboration. What appealed to me about Eugene was that, unlike me, he was not an organizational development or leadership development consultant. Yet he was also passionate about collaboration, participatory process, learning, development, and having a big impact. We seemed to have a lot in common at the philosophical level, though we’d been approaching our work from different lenses.
As we worked together, I saw that my focus on helping groups create something together over time, whether it be creating a more adaptive culture, creating a more innovative strategy, or creating stronger external partnerships, was limited. I knew how to design great meetings and processes that create the space for reflection and lead to the kinds of conversations in which people are jazzed because they are thinking more intelligently together, talking about things that really matter, and moving into right action.
But what I didn’t know how to do was expand the conversation to include people who weren’t in the room. And how to ensure the conversation and learning would continue when people were back in the reality of their crazy, busy “run-from-meeting-to-meeting” schedules.
As Eugene and I worked together, I saw new avenues for bring individuals, organizations, and networks alive.
I learned about Google Docs (see A Simple Technology that Enhances Team and Organizational Performance), the power of having an internal Wiki to enhance organizational learning, and the power of using Twitter or Chatter to open up a conversation. Our team was doing 60 second Flip camera interviews of participants in meetings, posting pictures, data and video on an internal wiki right after the meeting, and making these available to those who were not there in person. It was amazing!
We were using technology to support and enhance collaboration. Instead of it getting in the way of human connection, it was enhancing it.
The next phase of the quest
Though I have no interest in sitting in front of my computer all day, feeling compelled to read each email or tweet as it comes in, I do want to see how technology can enhance our ability to work together, to tackle tough problems, and to create the organizations and future that we want.
I have seen that technology can help us to be more transparent, more nimble and smarter. I want to further explore how it can also help us to be more human, more intimate and more connected.