The politics of working with others in the age of skype and twitter

Over the next month or so, I have a couple of presentations talking about the way that ‘the digital’ impacts the ways in which we work with others. I’ve spent a lot of my time over the last few years focusing on the learning part of that cycle, but maybe not as much about the day to day of actually partnering up with someone in order to work together and get something done. It’s odd, I guess, that i haven’t, as other than this blog, I almost never do anything on my own. I tend to work better when there are other voices in the mix… they keep me on track and keep my ideas from spiralling out of control.

Partnerships at a company level
One of the things that Bonnie (speaking of partners) brought up to me in our discussions around partnerships, is how they have moved from being between companies to being between people. It’s a pretty profound change when you think about it, it used to be that for two people from different institutions were going to work together there needed to be a fair amount of driving/floating/flying around involved to get them near enough to each other to get any work done. This requires that your ideas be in pretty good shape before someone in your organization is willing to spring for ticket fair (not to mention the amount of time that you need to be out of the shop) My suspicion is that this has a profound effect on innovation. I’m not necessarily saying its a good or bad effect, but it certainly changes things. If i can take any kind of crazy idea and just skype someone about it, it sure does speed things up. It also means that new ideas can come from lots more places. It might also mean that i need to spend less good thinking time on an idea before it gets out the door.

Partnerships and locality
One of my struggles in the past 5 years on the island has been making local connections to work with. I have an excellent working relationship with people from all over the world and still struggle finding people here. I think this is a real challenge in an era where choice and happenstance on the internet makes connections available. I’m tempted to use the time that I have for ‘fun’ projects with people i have worked with before, or with people that I happen to run across. I’m not sure if the rest of you are in this position… but it sure is a struggle when I have feelings about local issues in education or social media and realize that I don’t even know who to call to get involved in the conversation.

Beating duplication
Maybe the nicest thing about working in this era, is that I need not simply replicate all the same mistakes that everyone else makes. And, for that matter, my mistakes can be of value to others… which might be even more encouraging. If you set things up right, and you release your ideas early and often, you can gain months on any project simply by hearing back from others doing similar things. You might even find a partnership or two. If you can band together with others… sustainability isn’t far behind.

Partnerships for sustainability
I’ve been co/manager of edtechtalk for nearing 6 years now. We’ve done thousands of shows (ok… maybe under 2000 but we’ve done a heck of alot of them) and lots of people have made lots of connections that have helped them out. I can promise you that I wouldn’t have done a podcast every week for the last six years without a little help and encouragement along the way. We’ve lost a few shows, gained a few others, we’ve had shows where different people have cycled in an out of them. The best of projects is susceptible to real life. To new kids and new jobs and moves to different houses.

The ability to be open, not just in the sense of being willing to share, but also to have that sharing get out there to have your openness ‘interact’ with others is the most powerful part of the change. As people have come in and out of my personal life, the things i have done have changed. You’re friend the guitar player leaves and you stop jamming so much, the person who likes hiking moves away and you stop going to see birds. We’re not all like this, I realize, but I sure am. The thing that having all of you out there changes is that there are others to play with. As I’ve lost connections over the years the ‘long tail’ of others interested and passionate about the same things as i am have filled the gaps (not exactly the same way… but that’s often good too) and allowed me to stay focused longer…

and maybe get further.