What happens when you take a dragon fairy to a local networking event.
Some people are intrigued and approach you, while others may think “Who is that freak with the cuddly toy!?!” I’m not saying anyone thought the latter – not that I asked. But when Puffles gets invited via Twitter to turn up to events, it’s no longer a surprise (to the people of Cambridge and Whitehall at least) that I turn up with Puffles in tow. Puffles was with the YouCanHub the night before for their first birthday – making capes, bunting and aprons while eating lots of cake.
For those of you who don’t know about Junior Chambers, see here. I first heard about them via my first line manager in the civil service back in 2004. It took me another 8 years before I made it to my first event. Prior to that, an obsession with ballroom dancing, followed by years in London sort of got in the way. With hindsight by the looks of things I could – and should have gotten involved a lot earlier – not least to get other people involved.
I hate it. No – really. There’s a falseness and a selfishness about it as an action – certainly in the way that it’s viewed in contemporary society. Senior managers and business gurus give me the impression that networking is good for individual career prospects and for the organisation that one works for. This was very much the impression that I got during my years on the Fast Stream. Essentially I wanted friends, they wanted colleagues.
Basically my outlook on life has been one where I’m not living a life full of silos – even though that’s how it has sort of turned out. I never wanted to live an existence where the people who I worked with during the day were separate from the people who I socialised with etc etc. I was hoping that the civil service would provide that all-encompassing lifestyle of living, working and socialising with a core group of solid friends and a supportive network of acquaintances. It didn’t quite work out like that in the end.
Social media for social good?
My use of social media has turned things on its head. As I said this evening, I use social media to filter good people into my life and bad people out of it. Which was why the guest speaker of this evening’s event Noam Kostucki said a number of things that immediately clicked with me in terms of working with people. He’s titled one of his themes “Making money by doing good”. Personally speaking, the first three words switch me off completely, but in the market that he’s in it’s a crowd-puller. (The reason being that for me and others in the public sector, earning enough to get by is enough – greater satisfaction in life comes from other things – i.e. even more money is not a significant enough of a motivator).
As it turned out, the wider theme was less about making money but more about making people’s professional lives more…well…’enjoyable’ is perhaps the wrong word – interesting and varied perhaps? What was noticeable though was that he was challenging the mindsets of a number of people in the room. In the end it wasn’t making more money that people were talking about, but making things better for each other in and beyond the workplace that people seemed to be talking about. Which chimes with the ethos of Junior Chambers.
The most important aspect of Noam’s speech was about the journey. In a nutshell the exercise he used this evening involved accepting an assumption that “selfishness is the best reason to co-operate”. While Noam’s speech may not have chimed with people instilled in an ethos of public service, it certainly will have been more than challenging for those who are used to and/or thrive in an environment where monetary success and beating the competition are primary goals in life. The nature of some of the questions that came back early on reflected that for some at least, this was going to be a challenge for him. A useful insight for a workshop I’m hosting next month where I’m going to be introducing social media to East Anglian freight and shipping firms. How do you go about trying to influence the mindsets of some people who will be very much looking at that bottom line because their business depends on it?
On the whole, people seemed to have come away receptive to trying out some of the challenges and tasks put to them by Noam. What the short and long term impacts will be remains to be seen. The challenge I put to some of the delegates on the exercise we went through today was whether they could apply it to the teams that they worked in to see what impact it would make on their workplaces. Take the potential impact of one persona making a change and multiply it by a factor of the number of people in your team? Worth a try if the benefits are great enough.
What’s this got to do with social media?
Noam’s theme was ‘helping people to help yourself’ essentially. Social media in my experience can make the former much easier. I help people for free even if it’s via this blog, through the links I post or through the connections I make when putting people in touch with each other.
The challenge that digital and social media pose to people and industry at present is trying to work out how much to give away for free and what and how much to charge for. My first social media training commission came as a direct result of offering to host a social media workshop for free – this one to Cambridge City Councillors. At the time I had no idea I was going to go down this route. It was more a case of “Ooh, that sounds like fun! Can I do it please?” The next thing I know I was being asked to put in a quotation for wider awareness-raising sessions for staff.
Connections – like your ideas for Cambridge?
Exactly. Some of you will have seen my post about a possible Cambridge Societies Fair and on Bringing Cambridge Together. On the public sector side of things there is also Teacambs – on which I’ve already had positive responses from Cambridge City Council and from the East Anglian Ambulance Trust up the road in Cambourne. As I’ve said, in a nutshell I want to break a number of the silos that exist within Cambridge and beyond. That means (on my part) investing some face-time in the networks, societies and groups in and around the City. But hey, I’ve got more than a bit of time on my hands.
The aim isn’t to get everyone to join every single network out there. For JCI Cambridge there is huge scope to expand its membership within the City (given the number of graduates dotted in and around) just as there is for the Cambridge Cycling Campaign in terms of recruiting members from the sixth form and further education colleges. But you don’t go about doing this by spamming message boards. You’ve got to give something in order to get. Now…where is that membership form?