Friday, 16 September 2011


This post is all about one person’s (me) timeline of transformation from an e-mail dinosaur to something else…..  

It is about a journey, my testimony, but also something else very fundamental. It is about the need to help people into the socially networked wirearchy of collaboration that is so rapidly becoming our workplace – and our way of life.  That special something is the need to have someone at hand to help when problems occur and panic and confusion threatens progress, someone who will inject new ideas and provide the encouragement that energises and gives the confidence to take the next step. 

2 years ago, 62 years old, I was very happy using e-mail as my communication platform. I used Skype for social purposes – mostly on poor lines to speak to my wife while away for extended periods in places where phones are expensive. I had a LinkedIn address but never used the platform. 

18 months ago I started to use Skype for business conferencing on a global basis – audio, not chat and certainly no video because bandwidth restrictions at my client prevented it.  E-Mail remained the tool of choice – in fact the only tool if I am really honest. I was beginning on a crash course of using and learning about the potential of webinars – I had asked a question via the chat box and I had even dared to take part in the participant chat on one of them.  But that was a scary experience! 

Just over a year ago this week I started (very cautiously) to explore Twitter, I had just set up a blog but had not used it – and was anxious about doing so. I had a gMail address and a Google account. 

What a difference a year makes! The year since has taught me so much about the incredible power of some of the many platforms and applications that we now have at our disposal. I will now explore, evaluate, and either incorporate or discard with a degree of confidence – although I remain somewhat challenged in getting going with a new one when I make that decision. 


Here’s how it began just about 15 months ago…… 

My great friend and colleague, Robert Kydd, had become fascinated by the discoveries I was making in researching global best learning practice for the major client where he works.  I was busy exploring the enabling and supporting possibilities of social learning – he recognised the need for, and was into understanding the platforms and their potential use. I was persuaded to open my gMail address and Google account.  He even managed to get me to use GoogleTalk a couple of times.  My journey towards multiple platforms had begun - but I was without direction. 

Looking back I lacked a skill that I believe will be seen to be essential for knowledge workers and workplace collaborators in the years to come. – that of carefully assessing one’s communication needs and matching to them the host of available solutions to provide an effective and efficient toolkit for one’s work. That skill has had to be developed very quickly indeed.

Robert suggested having a blog of my own to document my discoveries. Whoa! That’s a step too far.  Robert was in a far away place and we could only “talk” electronically except at quarterly meetings where he did his best to help. But he was speaking a language and urging me to do things for which I was not ready. Not Robert’s fault – he took me a giant step down the road and we were on our parallel journeys together. 

Baffled by the technology, nervous of disclosure and security issues, not understanding much of the “tech speak” language surrounding apps and the SoMe, but hugely excited by the potential of it all, I was disempowered and frustrated.  

(This next bit sounds really kitch!) 

Then into my life, via a brilliant webinar she did for the Learning and Skills Group ( ) , came Jane Hart!  

Her exposition of the value of Ning, Elgg and other platforms I had never heard of lit my fuse – I began to see a way forward – but I was like someone with no arms and no legs – I had no idea what to do next and lacked the courage to take the next step forward from the point I had reached with Robert’s help.  I researched Jane – and became awed both by her reputation and the sheer scale of her knowledge base, all made so accessible in her website and on her blog ( ). When I found that Jane’s home base is only an hour’s travel from mine, light dawned – I could do what all Boomers do – set up a meeting!  

Looking back, coffee in the cloister restaurant of an English cathedral seems a bit of a quaint way to have kick-started my journey. Jane inspired me with the total common sense of the empowerment of social learning through the SoMe. It had to be the way forward – but she gave me a problem.  “You will not understand until you have involved yourself and tried it out”  

Me on Twitter?  You have to be joking! 

Two months later I knew Jane was right – I had done nothing to engage, but was even more convinced.  This was the moment to take the next step – but how?  “Get involved” my heart said – “be cautious” my head screamed – “I don’t know how”, my senses complained.  I know – boomer response – call Jane and ask for help! To my surprise she suggested we meet so she could help!  Little did I know…… 

That was it – a morning chatting, a bottle of wine – and then I was being gently but firmly installed with a Twitter account and a blog and a whole afternoon when I had to practice – EXTREME stress!  (Sounds foolish in retrospect but it was very real at the time) 

What has followed since has been incredible – my new found friend and mentor has had to be very patient! The following is a light hearted précis of a little of it…… 

"Come on now!  You do it this way - no not like that! Duh! I'll spell out the steps for you - do them one by one (Yes, dear friend). Can't you follow simple instructions?  Clearly not - let's try again - I'll write it out for you this time in easy words . That's better - your next lesson will be how to get into Twitter yourself - let's see if you need another lesson on how to sign in.....OK - got that bit - now try typing a message...... Good - now - oh no don't do that - you have told the whole world you think I am wonderful, I'm sure you intended that only for me!  (Some time later - when I have proved I can reliably - more or less - get into and use some of the media) Go to the xxxxx site and write a response – put down what you really believe...... Now you are in s*** - everyone is after you - but never mind - remember that if you don't narrow it everyone will see your tweets - too late - but I'm sure you will manage the consequences……  BTW - you could blog it as well - then all the rude comments will come straight back to you - well done - can I re-post it on my page please?”  

So it went on, coaching that was firm but light-hearted and always supportive……and a year later…… progress has been made …… 

“That conversation on Skype chat has been very interesting - when you’ve gathered your thoughts, if you post a blog, make sure you Tweet it and it will then get re-tweeted. (Yes, Jane) Make sure your Twitter address is prominent on your blog (Yes - mentor) You can put that stuff on SlideShare (Yes coach – if you show me how – NB revert 2 paragraphs!). Why don’t you do a webinar?  And you could write a book?  And conference speaking to share what is in your blogs about communities……..” (Now this is getting ridiculous – but my confidence is up and I am able to move forward) 

And Robert, who started this journey with me?  We are walking together. Now challenging one another to explore along our different lines, sharing the outcomes and supporting one another in influencing the situations around us.. 

Life has changed. 

That's coaching in action - if you are up for it - enjoy the ride!  


That will follow – because it has been a time when she and I have learned, shared and worked together.  The relationship has become a friendship – built on trust, shared experience and a common vision for networked Smart Working.  I will leave her to respond in due course 

But before I post my story, I must go back to the person who did so much to start me on the road.  This is  


“Analysing what has happened to Nic, I realise that there are three necessary components 

·         The Platforms themselves

·         A realisation of the process of using the platforms to engage with the potential community

·         The content and the passion to share it and learn from others 

As we began to understand how the platforms could be used, we engaged with existing communities and discovered the benefits that were emerging in the communities lives.  We gathered confidence and skill in interacting in this new environment to see those benefits at first hand. 

Nic realised that his experience and insight could add benefit.  He therefore went to the communities to share that insight and with an openness to learn from others. I saw the value of the community grow in a synergistic way as a result of Nic’s participation. At a personal level Nic’s having moved beyond simply networking into exploration of the SoMe for networking provided the light at the end of the tunnel – showing me that my efforts were not likely to be in vain. 

Now motivated, I used my own involvement in communities to which Nic had invited me such as the Social learning Community ( ) to frame the initiation and development of a Yammer community in my company which now numbers over 4000 

So what do we learn from all this? 

There has been humour, frustration, and elation when I got it right and have been able to access the power of it all. My experience illustrates a huge lesson for us all in our involvement in online communities and in social learning .We all need to know that there is someone, a real, warm, caring, intelligent human being who is prepared to invest in supporting one’s stumbling efforts. If, for whatever reason we are unskilled with the tools, they will be a block to our learning.  Comfortable with them, that immense and incredible new world of learning opens up like the views from the mountains as we walk and enjoy.  

I am immensely privileged to have two people support me so closely in my journey – and I know there are a host of others walking the same path, all of us seeking for each other’s success. Is that not what social learning is all about?

When we recognise the nature of the journey, we understand ourselves so much more. Then we are able to help others at whatever stage they are on their own journeys – and our own learning truly begins.  As we interact through the communities to which we belong, we do well to remember that, unseen, all of us are facing our own challenges and need each other’s support. It is in giving that we receive! 

I am still clumsy with the software and need a lot of help – but I have learned to “speak” in this new world – liberated to share my thoughts and to get feedback and insight from people who read them – even Jane seems to gain from them sometimes!  

Thank you Robert and Jane and all of you who read and comment on my small contributions – this new world is a great place in which to be and one in which every day is a learning adventure.  

Oh – and Ollie, your story needs to be told too…….

1 comment:

  1. Nic, what a fantastic post - you really are an inspiration to us all.