Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“The hardest part of teaching: Having to justify to students that what they’re learning in school is relevant and will be useful in the future.” —@AnaFabrega11
Agency is the capacity to act. More subtly: An individual’s life can continue, with a certain inertia, that will lead them on to the next year or decade. Most people today more-or-less know what they are going to be doing for the first twenty-or-more years of their life—being in some kind of school (the “doing” is almost more “being told what to do”). Beyond that age there is of course the proverbial worker, in modern stories usually an office worker, who is often so inert that he becomes blindsided by a sudden yank of reality (that forces him out of his inertia, and in doing so the story begins).
Gaining agency is gaining the capacity to do something differently from, or in addition to, the events that simply happen to you. Most famous people go off-script early, usually in more than one way. Carnegie becoming a message boy is one opportunity, asking how to operate the telegraph is another. Da Vinci had plenty of small-time commissions, but he quit them in favor of offering his services to the Duke of Milan. And of course no one has to write a book, or start a company. But imagine instead if Carnegie or Da Vinci were compelled to stay in school for ten more years instead. What would have happened?
Differentiating online variations of the Commonplace Book:
Digital Gardens, Wikis, Zettlekasten, Waste Books, Florilegia, and Second Brains
“Historically commonplace books are one of the oldest and most influential structures in the note taking, writing, and thinking space. They have generally been physical books written by hand that contain notes which are categorized by headings (or in a modern context categories or tags. Often they’re created with an index to help their creators find and organize their notes.
They originated in ancient Greece and Rome out of the thought of Aristotle and Cicero as a tool for thinking and writing and have generally enjoyed a solid place in history since. A huge variety of commonplaces have been either copied by hand or published in print book form over the centuries.”
In other words, sense-making is about making sense of the external world, while meaning-making is about relating it to our inner world. Asking the question: “What does this situation mean to me?” … A simple way of looking at it is as follows. If sense-making asks, “What is going on?”, meaning-making asks, “What are the implications of what’s going on for me (or my family or my organization)?”
No such thing as “too much collaboration”?
The reason why many managers fail to see and address this problem is that they are used to looking at communication and assume it’s a good thing. Because they see activity. People are attending meetings, talking to each other, the online presence indicators are bright green. Clearly, a lot of work is happening!
At the same time, real work is not getting done. Meaningful work is usually done quietly and in solitude.
“It’s fine as long as I keep busy”
Most makers don’t have the levels of control and autonomy necessary to block out half a day without any calls or meetings. So instead of pushing the issue with the management, we try to compensate by attempting to multitask – unfortunately, that rarely works. Building context can take hours, and context switching between communication and creative work only kills the quality of both.
Being busy feels like work to us, but it’s not the work that needs to be done.