My focus in the last week has moved from connections to the conversations that power them. Our conversations carries the stories we tell about ourselves, others, the nature of our connections, and how we live. Conversations are the mycelium of our society. They provide connection, exchange and nutrition to our communities below the surface and out of sight.
It seems to me that our conversations are not in good shape. They have become routine and we have unintentionally but effectively industrialised much of our conversation.
In business. “Effective Meetings”. Agendas. Goals. Efficiency. Productivity. Performance. Time limits. They all constrain free flow and creativity and we end up with dialectic, binary, right/wrong discussions with winners and losers where what we increasingly need is the inefficient, colourful, wandering dialogue that pokes into corners to find unexpected treasures.
In our social conversation, we too often end up trading pre assembled packages of ideas and opinions delivered to us via social media. Instead of chewing carefully and digesting it, we swallow it whole, like fast food. It provides energy, but not much nutrition and we end up societally obese and spiritually impoverished.
John Kuzava put it poignantly in a recent thread on LinkedIn when he observed that conversationally we are using a monochrome pallette to try and paint rainbows.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The last year has seen us physically distanced, but that doesn’t have to mean socially distanced. Zoom has done us a huge favour by taking the market for business oriented, “efficient” video platforms that are built on multi tasking with files and calenders and other links and offered a simple platform that is focused on the conversation. I have used it, with others, to hold a series of regular weekly conversations that are focused on the people and the quality of conversation. No agenda, no goals, just humans taking a real interest in each other and letting the conversation go where it will. A small island of sanity and sanctuary in a sea of uncertainty. Friendships have been formed, and insights generated that have brought colour and texture to the greyness of the last year. I’m thankful for the simplicity of Zoom.
We have a habit of putting business, and money, and goals at the heart of conversation and made them functional. It diminishes us.
Conversations for the sake of it are powerful, liberating and generative. We would all do well to set our conversations free.
I’m now in the process of bringing together what I have learned over the last year into a book I’ll make available in September. The theme is the power of artisinal thinking in a time of automation. As part of that, I’m rereading some of my favourites. Here’s a number on my desk at the moment:
Craftsman. Richard Sennett. One of my “go to” books. An elegant capture of what makes craft so powerful.
Punished by Rewards. Alfie Kohn. I read this years ago as part of an interest in how we were strangling the joy of those who love their work by measuring them out of existence to track their “performace”. It remains true today, and the book as powerful now as I found it then.
The Brain is Wider than the Sky. Brian Appleyard. A well informed and very readable alternative to the “neuroeverything” school of books around at the present.
Equality. John Stuart Mills. Mills wrote around one hundred anf fifty years ago on the importance of equality for women. A courageous move at the time, and it’s deeply embarrassing that we can still learn from it today. From FS.blog.
Ultra fast fashion is eating the world. Why do we do this to ourselves? What do we not understand? From the Atlantic.
Bee Kind. France has become the first country in the world to ban all five pesticides known to be harmful to bees. When we depend on them, why aren’t we there in the U.K. yet?
We are now officially into Spring. Enjoy it. Grow. Have a great week.