Caught Wearing Hipster Glasses?

You know the saying, you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes he/she is wearing? This is how I feel about glasses. You can tell a lot about a person by the frame of their glasses or whether they are wearing readers versus prescription. I have waited a lifetime for glasses to be cool. With the exception of two years in high school, I have worn glasses for 25 years. The majority of those years, glasses were not hip and associated with being a geek and definitely not a member of the cool crowd. Picture a mini-Lauren with red Strawberry Shortcake glasses half the size of her face. ‘Coke Bottle Eyes’ was the nicest name ever associated.

Over the years, I embraced wearing glasses and started to think of them as my defining accessory. I fondly recall my circle tortoise frames and my Kennedy wannabe glasses. The specs evolved into more than just an accessory. They became the centerpiece, the foundation, of each outfit. I now have eleven pairs of glasses to suit my mood and any agenda. While I am happy glasses are now cool, the hipster look does not appeal to me. Folks are trying too hard. This is exactly what I see reflected in the policy and processes of many organizations. They have these things in place because they are cool and shiny. And just like the hipsters and their specs, most only have the frames and no lens or identified need.

Vision Test

Lens one? Or lens two?

There is no such thing as social media/community lite, but your organization does need to understand why you have the digital assets you have or plan to deploy, how you will participate, and the impact of engagement. Do you need to hunt out the ideal frame for a prescription pair of glasses or will readers suit your need? Identifying your governance architecture and corresponding resources is the only way to determine the framework of the foundation your organization requires. Near sighted? Far sighted? You have to factor the time frame, social media/community maturity and how your initiatives align with the cultural roadmap of your organization.

Style

Last year, I bought a pair of zebra striped cat eye glasses. They are one of a kind, hand-painted frames. I didn’t ask how much they were. I spotted them in the window of the store, tried them on, and five minutes later I handed over my credit card. The frames screamed my name and there was no turning back. The policy and processes of your organization need to scream the name and culture of your organization. Policy and process copied and pasted from another organization’s copied and pasted policy and process will never work in your organization because it does not mesh with the style of the culture. The frame, the foundational elements, should reflect the company mission, vision and values. If that means a pop of color or horn rimmed specs, you need to adapt.

Fit

Glasses are an investment. There are so many options to choose. Lighter lenses. Coated lenses. Tinted lenses. The possibilities are endless. Once you have gone through the effort of choosing the style, you want to ensure the fit on the glasses are snug, but don’t pinch the back of your ears. Do the lenses slide down your nose because the weight of the lenses? Are the frames level with your field of vision? The organization needs to test out the policy and processes for the same fit concerns. These foundational elements are not meant to be static, but living, breathing documents, that will expand and contract with the needs and maturity of the strategy and initiatives. Just as you take your glasses into the shop to have the fit adjusted or polished, build in a quarterly review of your organization’s policy and processes.

Embrace who you are as an organization and let the mission, vision and values reflect in each and every aspect of participation on and offline. You may be called names, but you won’t be faking who you are at the core.

Give your words power. Live them. Breathe them.

I am not a big fan of resolutions, just as I don’t wait until the end of the year to evaluate success. I prefer to always be in a state of progress (towards perfection, of course). Last year, I was introduced to the concept of three words to live by instead of setting typical resolutions. Rather than keeping the words I have chosen for 2012 close to my chest, let me share what I have chosen to become this year. You hold me accountable.

Coordinated

All of us know I love a beautiful flowchart and have a process or dashboard for everything I do. When I say I want to be more coordinated, this is not to be confused with more organized. I want to see, feel, hear and touch the process. Become one with the process as a dancer becomes one with music. My organization skills are like the choreography of a dance. It is time for me to know more than the steps, but dance them, as well. I want my feet and hands to move in sync with rhythm of the music.

Author

I have been saying for quite some time how I want to be a writer, a novelist. To be such, one has to write.  I have not been writing. Fear has been my greatest obstacle and I am working each and every day to conquer that beast…the beast of my own creation. The characters in my head have a story to tell and it is my responsibility to give them a voice.

Tempted

I would not describe myself as being impulsive. I do love a plan (especially when it comes together), but it is time to live in the moment. I will not become the extreme opposite and embrace the wild child within (some of you have seen this Lauren). Instead, I will embody the attitude to take action when an opportunity is presented. Perhaps this new attitude will lead me to a destination half way across the world or an afternoon at a local museum. Whatever the adventure, I am ready.

All that said, I need to go build a mind map now and determine how I am going to make these words my reality!

Being a conscientious online community tourist

Just over a week ago my husband and I took a whirlwind vacation to Istanbul with a stop in Rome on the journey to our final destination. Of course, you know me, the typical Type-A personality, I like having a plan and a process. This does not mean I cannot be spontaneous. Other than a dinner reservation on one night of the trip, we did not schedule a minute-by-minute itinerary. Yes, we had a list of places we would like to visit, but did not want to feel any more rushed than our four day trip was by default.There was pre-trip planning and a plan to be had, however.

You see, I did not want us to be “that tourist” – you know the one I am talking about. I can see you cringe right now. Let’s not generalize either. It is not just the Americans visiting other countries. There are folks fitting this description of every culture, gender and age. Unfortunately, folks tend to generalize the population of an entire country based on the case of one rotten apple. Just take a read through this post on the most annoying habits of tourists. How many of us have ever committed one of these fouls due to ignorance or blatant disregard?

So, I may not have planned my every move in Rome and Istanbul, but I did study the habits and customs of the cities visited. Trust me, I had my fair share of sticking out like a sore thumb in high school. My goal when visiting any location (this includes within U.S.A. too) is to put on the hat of an anthropologist and study the community before entering. Perhaps this study habit is the product of my career as a community manager or developed as a military brat visiting and living in a multitude of countries. There is nothing worse than being “that tourist,” knowingly or unknowingly.

Applied anthropology may be a useful practice extending beyond your annual vacation planning. You may consider applying this research habit to your daily online ventures, as well. It is so easy to hop from one blog or community platform/group to the next without hesitation or consideration of the inhabitants and regular participants in these spaces. Interrupting a conversation or insulting a community member because you did not have context of prior conversations or actions is a blunder similar totrying to touch in on London’s Oyster system using a paper ticket.

Before you can map the connections between your organization and community, you have to understand the methods, motivation and venues of participation.

Observe

  • Try to be an impartial observer and look at the community surroundings and interaction through the lens of one without bias.
  • Read between the lines and examine the underlying emotional triggers of what is said and shared or not mentioned.
  • Look at the content being shared and discussed to pinpoint trends and hot topics.

Lurk

  • Go for a community walk (similar to a photo walk) and take action without being disruptive and document landmarks or other areas of the community space or platform you have not noticed before:
      • How are people organized within the community? Are there subgroups? What is the cause of these subgroups and current conversation topics/exchanges?
      • How do people influence each other and outcomes?
      • How much space is allocated to sharing different types of content (i.e. documents, blog posts, discussion forums, etc)? Is discussion enabled and encouraged around content?
      • What type of information is considered important enough to label as announcements or advertise prominently within the community space? Does this priority of information align with conversation and subgroup organization observations?
      • What topics of conversation or forms of engagement utilized in common community areas?
      • What type of lingo is used in conversation to reference topics and company/brand/product/service mentions?
      • What level of emotion is expressed in the interactions? What is the tone?
      • What types of interaction is observed? Is the interaction limited to community members or are there official company spokespeople participating?

Question

  • Interview community members (Once again, don’t just analyze the answers to your questions, but observe how and what is said and not said in reply) to help make sense of the information gathered during the observation and lurking stages:
      • How do community members discuss the community with friends outside the online community space?
      • What would community members change about the space and interactions?
      • Who are the (perceived) community heroes?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg of the information you can and should glean before participating in any community. You are just a tourist like any other until you become familiar with the habits and customs of your community. Avoid being labeled as the ignorant tourist. Your Internet connection may be your passport and transfer you immediately to any community destination, but citizenship is a process. In online communities, citizenship is earned with trust and credibility.

Reflect Creativity

It may be hard to believe, but I am not, by nature, a social person. I enjoy public speaking (after A LOT of practice) and have no problem navigating a board room or Twitter chat, but a cocktail party gives me hives. This morning, as my daughter, the social butterfly, flitted from kid to kid around the room at the school holiday party, I stood away from the crowd of chatting parents. I was simply content observing the kids and parents enjoying the gathering. At the table filled with food, a student sat by herself, engrossed, not in an animated conversation with another child, but in the pages of a book. This young girl was me twenty years ago, though not much has changed.

It just so happens the father of the girl at the table had pulled away from the crowd and was standing next to me. We struck up a conversation and both of us joked about being anti-social. I mentioned this was ironic considering my job and naturally he inquired about my career. Now, no one outside our social media bubble knows exactly what I do for a living, so I kept my description of community management brief. His first reaction was nothing like I had ever received.

“What a creative job,” he said.

Wait a second. Creative? Did this man just describe my job as creative? I suppose when I am neck deep in policy and process development, I do not feel creative, much less describe my position as such. This description took me by surprise in a very good way. It was great to think of myself as an artist instead of an egghead. Also, it was a good reminder to embrace the creativity between the guardrails. After all, haven’t I said before the reasoning behind policy and process was the knowledge and freedom to communicate?

Being creative takes a lot of work when we are working so hard to be adults. We miss the vibrant colors or the joy of coloring outside the lines using every crayon in the box. As author Twyla Tharp, states in her book, creativity must be made part of your life, as a habit. Once again, creativity takes a lot of work. It is one thing to read the words of this book and quite another to act and reflect creatively. As I pondered why the gentlemen from the party described my position as creative when I thought and felt anything but, I began to wonder if I was pigeonholing creativity as a chaotic mess.

The recent Fast Company article about Hollywood director and legend, Martin Scorsese encapsulates the art and science of creativity. Scorsese outlines his creative process of historic reflection, indulgence and learning how to play the inevitable corporate game. This man is anything but a chaotic mess. He reflects precision to the core. A man who has built processes and teams to create visual masterpieces. The chaos is channeled while creativity is maintained and reflected.

Now this is more my style.

I am awful at drawing and can barely paint by numbers, yet maintain other creative outlets.

  1. Writing Fiction (Yes, I am actually writing and can hear, “Do the work!” coming from Julien – no more flinching.)
  2. Digital Scrapbooking
  3. Traveling

I’d like to think that actively engaging in these outlets has allowed for my creativity to shine though the policy, diagrams and books I hide behind.

What are your creative outlets? What does being creative mean to you?

Learn to Question with Boldness

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” – Thomas Jefferson

As I dig out from the depths of my post-Blog World Expo LA Inbox, I feel myself bubbling over with renewed energy and drive. As if planned, all of the sessions I attended at the conference had a recurring theme – question with boldness. And this theme did not end with my trip back to Boston because as I flip to the Editor’s Note in the December issue of Discover Magazine, the topic bubbling once more to the top is about the art of questioning as Galileo once questioned the Catholic Church. It just so happens that Amber Naslund discussed Galileo in her BWELA keynote. Coincidence? I think not.

“Galileo didn’t discredit prior astronomical observations; he added to them.” – Corey S. Powell, Editor-In-Chief, Discover Magazine

Remember the kid in the front of the classroom who would raise her hand (this was me) to ask the professor a question five minutes before class was dismissed? Everyone groaned. Yet how many people were thinking of the same question and were secretly happy this person was brave enough to defy peer pressure and ask the burning questions?

What are your burning questions? Are you asking these questions or waiting for someone else to do so for you?

You will be waiting a long time.

Another piece of sound advice from Tom Webster given at BWELA – Don’t stop with the first question/answer. Keep plugging away until you discover the right questions. Life is a series of unanswered questions and actions. Asking questions is a learning process  and when action is taken to further this process it is not about cutting someone off at the knees in the name of discovery.

“What my questions are intended to be are thoughtful inquiries to ensure we’re thinking the topics through well enough to discern information and put it to good use. My hope is that I’m criticizing ideas, not people, though the inability for most people to interpret tone in the written word prevents some from seeing that.” – Jason Falls

I am still that girl at the front of the classroom. I won’t hesitate to raise my hand if I don’t know something. Life, all of you, and time are my teachers. I will keep keep questioning and getting my hands dirty designing, building and flying the plane at the same time until my last breath.

Ask WHY x5

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased an iPad. My first iPad. I love gadgets and have more than my fair share. Perhaps that is why my husband was always asking me why I needed an iPad so desperately. Was it just because of the coolness factor? How could I justify the expense? Just how could I rationalize the investment?

And he did not just ask me once. He asked for five separate reasons.

Did I want it? Or need it? What was the root cause of my desire?

Why?

Such a simple word requires critical thinking.  Sifting through the layers of junk assumptions and symptoms requires more than answering a single why question. This exercise is not a magic button solution and should not be the only problem solving method employed, but it should lead you down the road of thinking through a process at a deeper level. Ask more questions until you find the right answers. You are cheating yourself if you settle on the first answer.

Take a moment and watch this TED talk by psychologist Alison Gopnik. Her research explores the decision-making process of children at play. Babies are always asking why? In fact, they are asking why about everything! Gopnik describes this as lantern consciousness. Rather than getting kids to think more like mature adults, how can we start thinking and exploring like children? How can we get back to the why?