My Practice #2

Yesterday i shared a narrative around my own practice, as part of a pause as i consider my own development and space. Today i will add some detail around that picture: i do this not specifically in the sense that it will be of much interest to other people, but rather as part of the practice of #WorkingOutLoud, and in the belief that being mindful in (and of) our own personal practice is of value. To pause: to take stock, to look ahead.

I find that i can reasonably describe my practice as running through five key areas: a series of SPACES, some COMMUNITIES of practice, my opportunities for PERFORMANCE, my BOOKS, and a range of other ARTEFACTS. I’ll run through each of these in turn.

Broadly speaking my key public SPACES are the Blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn (note that i am active in other spaces, but these are the key differentiated spaces). The Blog is my primary reflective space: over time it has covered the widest aspect of the landscape, holds my most pioneering work, and crucially holds the iterative sequence of pieces that give the archaeology of my work over time. An example would be the very notion of the Social Age itself, which i have explored and interpreted through diverse text and multiple iterations of an illustrated map, for nearly ten years.

To understand my work, the Blog is central to my practice. Although interestingly it is far from the most ‘busy’ or ‘popular’ place to go. It’s more what is in my brain, or has been through my brain, than a perfect and polished story.

LinkedIn is more of a ‘professional’ space, and my primary space of professional connection. I cross publish the blog there, but often with more context, and i spend a similar amount of effort extracting ideas from the blog and sharing shorter snippets and expanded work on LinkedIn. In some ways i think i use LinkedIn ‘badly’, or not as intended: i tend to broadcast ideas, and use one main channel, almost never operating in the closed groups any more. I used to, but for me they became stagnant, and also opposed to my general principle of ensuring everything is available to everyone.

Increasingly i find valuable dialogue on LinkedIn too, although with the caveat that there is a lot of blind sharing as well: a lot of behaviour is of safety making and group consensus, and hence it is not always the most valuable discussion space.

Twitter is my primary semi synchronous conversation space: again, i do not tend to use it ‘properly’, preferring instead a rather stream of consciousness approach. My only defence is that it does not seem to have done me any harm. So i often add context or extended conversational thoughts around the ideas of the day.

In the last year i have added in two new COMMUNITIES: ‘Social Leadership Daily’ and ‘Learning Fragments’. Both are on SubStack, and both are very different. And both have been extremely valuable for my practice!

Social Leadership Daily was a natural extension of the book, ‘Social Leadership: My 1st 100 Days’, in that it’s about daily practice. I really wanted to ground some activity at sixty seconds a day, and with the SubStack magazine format, this really works well. The community is only 500 people, but it’s one of my most engaged spaces. And the discipline is good for my practice: forcing me to ground ideas into questions, activities, and structured reflections. Funnily enough, whilst the output is short, it’s in some ways harder to create than the blog, possibly because i experience it as an aspect of performance, which is different from the blog, which is entirely my own.

Learning Fragments is part of my own development in that it seeks to deconstruct (to graffiti) my own legacy work.

Trapped as we are by our certainty, i felt that the time was right to attack that certainty, and started to use this mid length video format to do this with: so 5-15 minute videos, considering aspects of learning. It’s still relatively early for this work, but i have found it energising and liberating. Perhaps, again, because it is unconstrained by ‘performance’ – i am explicit in the introduction that this space is not suitable for everyone.

Clearly these are not the only Communities that i am active in, but they are the most closely curated and ‘owned’ ones that i participate in, and whilst each very different, each is, in it’s own way, very focussed on being ‘in practice’. They are firmly learning and sense making spaces, not purely performance ones.

From here, the two elements on the left hand side come to the fore: BOOKS, and ARTEFACTS. I realise that this could have been one category, but i do differentiate them.

Books are more than collections of material: they form key steps in my own narrative of understanding over time, and tend to fall into two categories: the Handbooks are about overarching ideas, and the Social Age Guidebook series are more about research and practice. Typically i describe that series as being shorter, 12-15,000 words, research based, and they include sections on ‘what you need to know’ and ‘what you can do about it’. They are also designed to version up quite fast. Possibly the best way to understand the Guidebook series is as a series of Travel Guides through aspects of the Social Age, to take you on a journey down a specific path, whilst the Handbooks are overall Country guides!

I have split ARTEFACTS out to include things beyond books: specifically ‘Knowledge’ artefacts, ‘Fragments of Failure’, and my more ‘Experimental Works’.

This includes things like the ‘Social Age Safari’ [a large group structured sense making event], and ‘Trust Conference’ [a circus performance based exploration of trust, based upon the original research], as well as more recent exploratory work like ‘The New York Dereliction Walk’, ‘Quiet Leadership’, and ‘Failure – Complexity – Control’. Even with this broad description i can recognise that most of these experimental pieces use aspects of landscape and exploration in their design. This connection between knowledge and space is a central theme in my work: potentially limiting at times i guess, but recognisable.

Knowledge Artefacts is a recognition that one of the outputs of my practice is the phrases, stories, vocabulary and concepts that are then reusable: this has probably been the aspect of #WorkingOutLoud that i have felt most acutely, and which has been most valuable to me: the creation of chains of thought, units of understanding, and the ability to stack and re-stack these into new spaces.

Fragments of Failure is borrowing language from the Learning Fragments space, but a recognition that a central theme of #WorkingOutLoud, and a core part of my practice, is to be wrong, but to create artefacts of failure – fragments of it – and then to revisit them, to use them. For example, i have documented in detail how my understanding of ‘communities’ has evolved, and how i have used the failure of older ideas to shape research and sense making to try out new ones.

More broadly still, the approach to creating artefacts has led me to strengthen my approach to prototyping new work fast, something i find very useful in my practice: to take ideas into practical application rapidly and hence discover the narrative (and the knowledge artefacts) quickly. From an Organisational perspective (and that is not my specific aim here, but we can visit it) i think this speaks to the value of rapid prototyping methodologies and the rapid disposability principle, whereby we find value in things that can easily be evolved, rather than those which are codified into hard assets too fast.

I have included PERFORMANCE as a key aspect of my practice, because this is more than the ‘telling of stories’: it is through performance that i rapidly iterate most of my ideas and work. Indeed, i could go further and say that without embedding performance into practice development, it inherently stays abstract.

Performance grounds, and accelerates, my work: one could view this as with the tempering of steel. We tend to beat out the weakness through scrutiny!

It may sound odd to say though, but i do not typically get much in the way of useful feedback from my performance. I would say that this is one of the least useful spaces for that, which may sound counter intuitive to some. But what it does let me do is rehearse narratives and find coherence in the story, and in work which explores new ideas, finding coherence is extremely valuable.

This is an overview of my practice space: of course there is more depth to it, but as a matter of discipline and good practice i have found some value in pausing to consider the ‘how’ in my work.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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2 Responses to My Practice #2

  1. Very interesting! I wonder how you get clients so that you can practice new things? and is feedback on your blog important?

    • julianstodd says:

      I find that people find me: work comes through the community. Feedback on the blog is funnily enough not that important for me, as this is my own personal sense making space, but the dialogue around it is very useful. Thanks for your interest around my work, best wishes

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