How often do we use formats and templates, either our own or taken from “best practice” out of habit and convenience?
The photograph at the header is one I have used several times. I like it because I was in the balloon following the one in the picture, as we talked about the problem of where to land as the cloud came in (Balloon options are pretty limited – you can go up or down in the direction the wind is taking you). It means something to me and is, I hope, evocative of flying blind, but what does it mean to you, more so if you’ve seen it before?
In her book The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker asks us some powerful questions about the gatherings we organise, including:
- What is the real purpose of the meeting, a reunion of whatever gathering it might be? Have we really thought about it?
- Is it unique or routine? Is it provocative or boring?
- Will it create the energy needed for genuine dialogue, or will people be surreptitiously checking their phones?
It is one of those books that is, for most, unlikely to teach something new but does a wonderful and necessary job of powerfully reminding us of what we know but have sidelined – that every meeting, or whatever sort, is unique. That as Heraclitus tells us, “Nobody steps in the same river twice. It is a different river and a different person.”
Every time we cut and paste an agenda, or use a convenient stock photograph, or a template letter, we lose an opportunity to communicate as individuals. It may be “efficient” but is much more likely to be ineffective. Every time we lose a chance to engage is one we will not recover.
One of the many things I like about Sue Heatherington posts is that she uses her own photographs taken where she lives. It’s the same with Steve Marshall; they give their posts context and personality. We can all learn from that. I certainly am.
Every time we lose even the slightest opportunity to communicate who we are, we become a little less visible and our voice a little quieter. In a world that needs our individual voices more than ever, I think that’s a problem.
Templates are convenient, but they are also incrementally toxic.