Friday Five: Thinking about context

Of all the things rattling around in my brain, I keep coming back to ‘context’ – what is it? How do I ensure what I am researching, writing, and packaging is created with the end user or consumer in mind and not overly influenced by my own agenda? Here are five of the resources I have consumed this week to challenge how I unpack and examine ‘context’:

  1. Podcast: #30 Collaboration and Competition with Margaret Heffernan via The Knowledge Project, released March 13, 2018
  2. Tweet:This is such a thought-provoking piece @MikeJonesPhD! One of the things I keep grappling with is – what context? What and whose context do museums bring/not bring, what do we foreground and what do we forget? We can’t go back, but what are we taking forwards with us? And why?” By @SFKassim August 8, 2019
  3. Article: Tristram Hunt and the de/recontextualisation of museum artefacts by Mike Jones
  4. Book: (actually a research study – #longread) Relevant repositories of public knowledge? Perceptions of archives libraries and museums in modern Britain by Bob Usherwood, Kerry Wilson, and Jared Bryson
  5. Video: To design better tech, understand context (TEDGlobal 2017)

Friday Five: How would you define leadership?

As part of the One by One fellowship, I am exploring the following research question: How might we locate leadership by exploring the value of a digital hub / commons as a site for shared skills development? ‘Leadership’ is a term that means many things to many people. Here are some of the resources I am using to help me unpack the characteristics and actions of a leader.

  1. Podcast: MWI: The Twenty-First-Century General, with Dr. Anthony King – this podcast explores the concept of ‘collective command’.
  2. Tweet:Courageous leadership is a practice. We have great free downloads and resources on our Dare to Lead hub. Stay brave, awkward, and kind.via @Brene Brown – July 19, 2019 - I have found these resources to be extremely helpful as I explore the competencies and capabilities of a leader, as well as, those competencies and capabilities that may be achieved by anyone when enabled by a great leader.
  3. Article: Why Digital Leadership Rocks the Boat by Robin Knowles – this article explores how three distinct waves of disruption may be forging a new breed of digital leaders.
  4. Book: The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin - this book is a favorite and a resource I consistently tap when exploring the competencies and capabilities of leaders.
  5. Video: What is Servant Leadership? by Agile at Barclaycard – this video explores the concept of ‘servant leadership’ as a key enabler of agile principles and practices.

How would you define leadership? What makes a great leader? Please share your go-to resources for characterizing leaders.

Contain yourself

This is an unusual post for this blog. It is personal. My husband and I had dinner last night and I felt out of place with my blue hair down and tattoos exposed. He asked was I not comfortable with what I had made myself? Yes, but hyperaware of how others perceive me, especially in my role and having to frequently go into an office space. My thoughts…

It is that tough time of life when you cannot completely identify yourself with the business man or the kid just experimenting and having fun, seeing what life brings his/her way. It is time to suit up into the high collared shirt. Tattoos play peek-a-boo at the collar. Suck up that gut and button up well-tailored pants. Layer on top a crisp black, tan, or navy suit jacket and heels costing half your monthly salary. Despite the formal wear, blue hair is brushed back into a tight bun on the top of my head.

I am in-between.

Here I am the chameleon. The suit is a way to conform to the space that gives me the security and title I need to ensure my family lives an easy life. We can travel and see the world and expose our children to new cultures. We can buy our teenager a new dress for her first middle school dance. I hear my footsteps in the office hallways – clack, clack, clack. I did not think this would be me.

The suit begins to act as a piece of armor hardening for protection and serving as a way to keep the creative, the different, from seeping out too much. Tell me what start-up companies or other freeform culture companies will accept a woman into the their top management ranks. My husband left his job as a VP because he wanted to work for a place that had the same spirit as he and he found it. Few women are within those ranks. Where could I do what I do now and wear Havaianas, my crazy spectacles, and the occasional blazer?

The suit contains me. I won’t rid myself of my personality so quickly, but I won’t fight. I learned my lesson in my 20s that fighting was not the spirit that made ideas accepted and moved the rock up the hill. Instead, I will wear an under armor of patience and grace to prevent the suit of conformity from becoming a straight jacket squeezing every last drop of individualism from me. I have so much to give. Let me be me. Let me learn to contain myself and what part of myself when appropriate. I long for the day when we can drop the suits and facades and see people for who they really are.

Know I wear the suit to conform and protect you. Look beyond these trappings and see the free spirit trapped in the frame seeking an opportunity to break out, blue hair and all.

Be present

As you scroll through your social media feeds, you may notice people around you choosing one word or three to represent their goals for 2016. This practice is beautiful and if it can be maintained, may become a brilliant habit. We should set aside time for similar reflection and practice into our work lives or businesses. Knowing what your customers have been doing or predicting what they will be doing is extremely important and not to be discounted, but what are your customers or communities served doing now? Are you addressing their current issues to ensure a happier and healthier day and tomorrow?

If we can get the small daily details of service and experience design improved or solved, this is BIG news to your customer and communities. What may seem small and insignificant annoyances in the current customer journey are extremely important now to your community and will impact if they continue to choose you. We (you, companies, vendors…others) talk about the customer journey – Remember, it is just that, a journey. Along this journey we must progress and course correct as needed. As you plan your activities for the new year, think about how you can be present and accountable.

Reflections from Women’s Leadership Day at Dreamforce 2015

I am struggling to write this post because I am not sure of the relevance. Many women have written and continue to write about equal opportunity and pay of women, particularly within the tech sector. I have purposely stayed out of these discussions and most other gender related industry conversations because I didn’t want YOU to notice I was a woman. Now, even as I write this post, I know that concept sounds ridiculous. I am obviously female, but I have not wanted me to define me as a woman or for women’s issues before they considered my brain and what I could bring to the table.

A former CMO described me as full of vim and vigor. In my 20′s, I took pride in my passion, but learned quickly (actually, it took me over ten years to put this into practice) to place a lid on those extreme high and low emotions if I wanted to climb the ladder in the corporate world and make my mark in a male dominated tech industry. I have been running away from emotion for several years-allowing feelings to fester below the surface in exchange for detachment and compartmentalization. I move on. I adapt. I accept the challenge. I have discovered I do not necessarily want to be ‘The Guy,’ but the guy ‘The Guy’ counts on-or in this case, the woman.

Perhaps, as a result of recently reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson and my eyes being opened to the history of women in the digital revolution, I was (dare I say it?) more sensitive to the conversation around the Women’s Leadership Day at Dreamforce 2015. I hesitated to attend any of the sessions dedicated to the topic of women. I didn’t want to be a part of the male-bashing or female-bashing extremes of conversation. But I can no longer ignore the conversation. As a person who was part of the tech industry, now a consumer of technology, academic researcher, and mother of two tech savvy daughters, I am a part of the conversation too.

There is no denying there was a visceral reaction to the Lean In movement. I struggled then to write a review of the book that my husband was the first to read and discuss publicly. Even then I didn’t want to compromise the charade I had concocted in my head-if I didn’t acknowledge I was a female or discuss domestic issues, I could be one of the guys. I would then have a future in corporate America.

I sat in Dream Park yesterday watching Kara Swisher interview Chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff, and Salesforce co-founder, Parker Harris about the Salesforce priority of hiring and elevating  top female talent. I won’t dismantle the interview with my opinions or insert my own stories-a mixture of confabulations and truths influenced by my fear of not being enough. I found Marc and Parker genuinely think they have made strides in making women a priority for the future of Salesforce. The jury is still out on whether the changes being made by the fourth largest software company will have an everlasting impact. What struck me (and kept rattling around in my head all day) was Marc’s answer to Kara Swisher’s question about why women had not previously been a priority at Salesforce or in Silicon Valley. Marc said he was not aware of the disparity of issues until they had reached extreme conversation levels. He kept referring to the software industry as male dominated and created by men.

In fact, the software industry was created by women. Prior belief was that power was in the hardware and thus dominated by males and software or programming secondary and the work of a female. Despite the great talent and feats of Jean Jennings, Frances Bilas, Grace Hopper and others, it was not until Bill Gates struck the epic software deal with IBM that software took the throne within the tech industry. Our generation has given birth to amazing minds-some of them featured in celebration of Women’s Leadership Day at Dreamforce. It boggles my mind we still have these conversations about the differences between men and women in the workplace. Our world has changed so much, yet diversity and inclusion are persistent topics of unrest.

I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t think we can expect change if we only address the symptoms and not the root or fundamental issues. What I think each of us can do immediately is acknowledge and rewrite the history books to give credit to the females who came before us and forged the path allowing us to voice our concerns and passions. I don’t know if I’ll be embracing ‘I feel’ statements in the boardroom anytime soon and opt to wield patience and grace instead.

We need to share the stories of the females who have raised our voices. We need to share these stories with each other and our children. We owe it to the women before us. We owe it to those who will make be making the decisions long after we have left our offices.

I need more space

11218188_10153384409850218_1303557751318412164_oI am constantly trying to cultivate a beginner’s mind. It is so easy to coast and get caught up in the monotony and easiness of doing the same thing again and again. OK, well it might be easy for some. Not me. Many of the conferences and continuous learning sessions I attend do not push my boundaries of comfort or learning. My itinerary last week was the exception. I didn’t just step out of my comfort zone, I jumped out of myself and created a new space for me to digest and reflect.

Last week, I joined a collection of over 90 museum professionals and artists at Museum Camp 2015. This is where everyone was trying to up the weirdness factor. I usually stand out like a sore thumb in a conservative room of suits. Not this time. I blended seamlessly into a group of people I felt comfortable referring to as my tribe by the conclusion of the weekend. I refrained (or hope so) from being a fan girl when I finally met Nina Simon in-person. As I have stated before, Nina’s book is one of the reasons I decided to reclaim my path as a museum professional. She did not only get me excited about the museum industry, but about my current area of expertise.

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & Natural History and staff reflects Nina’s enthusiasm and understanding of the Santa Cruz community. The atmosphere of the museum was laid back and inviting. The staff and interns were warm and inviting – each person had a unique personality and style. I am sure I was not the only one who felt both uncomfortable and envious of the workplace.

I could not refuse the call to Museum Camp 2015 when I found out Nina would co-lead the event with Beck Tench. Beck is the antithesis of Nina. Whereas Nina cultivates the abstract thoughts and extroverts, Beck is a complex thinker who speaks to introverts and puts them instantly at ease in unfamiliar environments. Nina and Beck complimented each other well and facilitated a weekend packed full of activities focused on the importance of space making.

The weekend included individual and team activities studying the impacts of creating and maintaining spaces devoted to ourselves and the communities we serve. I am bummed I did not take part of the camping experience at the museum, but the introvert in me desperately needed my own space in the evenings to recharge and reset. Many of the activities during the day required an openness and trust that was draining. This is not a negative observation. Conversations with like minds challenged me to bring my A-game to truly listen and think before I speak. I met such talented artists and laid the groundwork for some great friendships. Nina and Beck were free with their knowledge and lessons learned. Before Museum Camp 2015, I dreamed of working with Nina and Beck in some capacity. Museum Camp 2015 only amplified that desire!

I came back to Boston with ideas about how I could apply what I had learned and practiced over the weekend to my current job / industry and my PhD studies. I was looking for and attempting to identify all spaces (or the lack of) space around me. The time in Boston was brief because I jumped on a plane to the Happiest Place on Earth – Walt Disney World. From one coast to the other in a single week, my main objective was how to amp up my creativity levels. I was lucky enough to score a seat in the new Creativity and Innovation class at the Disney Institute. The class is loosely based on the book Creativity, Inc. (I gave this book to friends and team last Christmas) and the successes and failures of Disney over the past five decades. The class explored how to cultivate and implement creative ideas and included a behind-the-scenes look at The Disney Event Group. After the class, I explored the Magic Kingdom and challenged self to look for and identify as many different spaces (as defined in Museum Camp) as I could. I discovered there aren’t many easy-to-find spaces cultivating stillness!

Returning to Boston on Friday, I could not shake the Disney fever and took my husband and daughter to explore the new Museum of Science exhibit, The Science of Pixar. In this one exhibit, it was plain to see how Pixar was building spaces for their external and internal communities. My favorite hot spots were the video testimonials of the Pixar employees. This gave the space authenticity and a source of encouragement for any budding animators. All of us are space makers. Museum Camp, D-thinking and the Pixar exhibit encouraged the urban planning principles I have been exploring in digital community-building. I am validated. Inspired. Ready to take on the world. This past week challenged my comfort level and knowledge in ways that no other recent conference or events have been able to and I am thankful.