Colleagues and cube-ism

ceci-n-est-pas-une-pipeAmong my wife’s best facets: she knows a lot more about art than I do, yet has no more snobbery than I have skill in calculus.  Visiting a museum with her is like getting to go twice: we see completely different things even in the same work.

At work, too, you benefit from eyes (and ideas) other than your own.  One thing that always makes a project compelling for me is being able to talk about it with significant others.

By that I don’t mean a spouse, necessarily, but people who are significant to me because I can learn from them or with them.  They might work on the same project, or in the same organization, or in the same field as the project, or in areas like those I’m interested in myself.

Back at GE, some of them were cube mates–people in nearby cubicles.  But often I’ve benefited from virtual cube mates: people I connected with over the phone, through email, through listservs, and more recently through blogs and social networks.

The informal Twitter-based discussion called #lrnchat works that way.  During last night’s session, I said:

For me, social media connections (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) lead to “virtual cube mates” I connect with one on one…

…invaluable for me as a sole practitioner rarely working onsite.

(Yeah, it took two tweets to say that, but as the transcript shows, there are lots of tweets in a #lrnchat session.)

Often, in my corporate career, I had trouble finding others in the organization who saw themselves as training/learning professionals.  For that side of my career, I got involved with professional societies and outside events like Rummler and Gilbert’s performance analysis workshop.

Time, distance, and cost make that much more difficult.  And, at least for me, it takes time to accumulate the one-to-one exchanges that transform a coincidental relationship into a collegial one.

This connects with the Ten Steps concepts of recurrent and non-recurrent skill.  I think it’s easy to learn the social media basics: using RSS, commenting on blog posts, sharing updates on Facebook or Twitter.  Those are mainly procedural, how-to things: I’ve got something to say; how do I put it there?

But the richer elements (skill, range, nuance, insight) take time.  There’s no one right way to do them.  And there’s no one right way to interact with your peers; each case is situational.

You’ve got to try, though.  As Thelonius Monk said, “The piano ain’t got no wrong notes.”