I love community building/facilitating; using social media to garner interest in things and then turning those into offline community events that hopefully people will enjoy. Good examples are the 4am Project, Birmingham Social Media Cafe, and the work I do with talk about local.
I also love being on my own. I spend more time on my own that anyone else I know. I relish it. I work well alone. That's not to say I don't work well with others, I do, but if you tell me I have to work on my own, no problem.
I like doing things on my own too. I've gone on lots of holidays solo out of choice. I'll go to a nice restaurant on my own, or the cinema. I don't avoid doing something I want to do just because it means I'll be alone.
|Photo by Nick Lockey|
So, how come I love the community building/engaging side AND the solo side? That's what I've been asking myself. They don't seem to go hand in hand.
This article from the New York Times answered that question! I am so happy to have read it and can really relate to it.
It's titled The Rise Of The New Group Think
As I was reading it I was thinking, 'Yes, I get it. The two things (community and solitude) CAN co-exist!'
It's going to be hard not to just quote the WHOLE piece here, so I will just pick out the snippets that stood out to me to the most. Please read it and let me know what you think!
SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is inIt's certainly a trend I've noticed, and I think that has evolved more now we have the wonderful internet. Being so hyper connected makes it easier to collaborate. Collaboration is seen as a Good Thing. Therefore, let's collaborate, let's Groupthink, let's make something great happen! I can understand that.
And I will add that I couldn't do what I do without other people's involvement or contribution. There's few people that will achieve anything entirely on their own, without other's support, encouragement, perhaps ideas and help and facilitation or simply someone cheering them on from the sideline.
I run the 4am Project alone from behind my computer screen. I do the majority of the work behind the scenes; when there's a global 4am Project date I manage the website, flickr, facebook, twitter account, pr, emails etc. I don't really need to see another person to do that. However, the 4am Project as it is with over 50 countries taken part and 6000+ images would not have happened without the collaboration of other people (and that people love the project enough to give up sleep and take part, I am very grateful!). And when the 4am date comes around, I'll have organised an event in Birmingham and I will show up and take part and make sure everyone is having a good time.
Collaboration is in. But that's shouldn't meet that solo working should be out!
Working alone on my various things, I get a lot done. I haven't got the distraction of a husband or kids. To add to the picture you may have in mind, I also work in silence for the majority of the time. Most the the things I work on I deem important and therefore that needs my full concentration. Sometimes, in the evening, depending on what I'm doing, I'll put the radio on. What a treat! lol. When the clock hits 9 or 10 o'clock, I'll put the tv on and watch something or other and wind down before bedtime.
I have no brothers or sisters, so I guess spending time on my own is ingrained to me. It's not a scary thing at all. Beside, I have all my friends on the internet for company as and when I want! :)
The beauty of the way the internet allows us to work is that we don't have to be in a physical place. Of course, that depends on your job. I mean, I DO have to go out to do some parts of my work. But for the majority of my work, I just need to be online in between team meetings, delivering training workshops in various cities, taking photographs, attending events etc.
|Photo by Nikki Pugh|
"During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010."And the article goes on to say that when experiments were done in open offices and workers were given their own cubicles, their own 'nook' to work in they were happier and their output improved.
What distinguished programmers at the top-performing companies wasn’t greater experience or better pay. It was how much privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption they enjoyed.Even working from home there are interruptions. That's why I keep my land line phone switched off (no one calls me on that anymore, they have given up lol), and the majority of the time, my mobile will be on silence (but I'll see it flashing and can decide whether to take the call or call them back later). Twitter is usually kept on so I can reach out and connect when I feel like it (though I have switched the 'chimes' off).
Whatever the interruption, whether it's the phone ringing, or a colleague coming up to you for a chat, or answering an urgent email, your brain can take about 15 minutes to shift back into the space it was in doing whatever task you were doing.
As a different New York Times article reports.
In a recent study, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages. They strayed off to reply to other messages or browse news, sports or entertainment Web sites.I tried a co-working space once. A very nice lady sat next to me and chatted the whole day! On that day I wanted to use the space to opt in and out of conversation, but I had no choice with this lady's chatter. I went home early. I got nothing done and was too polite to tell her not to talk to me, even though I made hints that I had a lot to do.
Apparently you can use your ear phones as a 'code':
Two earphones in = I'm busy. Do not interrupt.
1 earphone in = kinda open for chat but keep it brief
Ear phones out = Let's talk!!
If only I had known that back then. Of course, it relies on other people working there to know that code too!
This last week or two has been varied. I met up with the talk about local team in the office. Last Tuesday I went to London to help train people. Tomorrow I'm off to Liverpool to do a workshop. Today I am working alone. Each of those days has a different flow, and I adapt and enjoy that. Even though I'm used to working on my own, I'm not anti-social. I'm out going and friendly and when I do go out socially or go to an event, I have a great time.
|Time Square. I spent a month in NYC on my own and loved every minute, though I still checked in with my friends online and met new people in NYC. Screen shot by Sas Taylor|
Solitude can even help us learn. According to research on expert performance by the psychologist Anders Ericsson, the best way to master a field is to work on the task that’s most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone.
If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move.Oh the challenges I've set myself! Most recently some website stuff (which I'll mention in another blog post). I don't know that much about the back end of websites or how they work. This year I have spent 50 hours figuring out what I wanted to do and how to do it. Of course, I could reach out and ask for help, or just get someone else to do it for me - save a headache right? But I am very determined, and admittedly I don't like asking for help (maybe too independent), and in the end I worked it out and got there.
Plus, what I have learnt from figuring it out on my own is that I can do things that I intially find hard, and at the same time I will learn something. And I've never regretted learning anything, and that learning has stood me in good stead and nearly always come in useful. It's an investment in myself if you will.
|By Dan Johnson Photography|
I’m not suggesting that we abolish teamwork. Indeed, recent studies suggest that influential academic work is increasingly conducted by teams rather than by individuals. (Although teams whose members collaborate remotely, from separate universities, appear to be the most influential of all.)Remote collaboration. We can all do that very easily now! The internet provides the perfect vehicle to do that and we have some many tools at hand within it do aid the collaboration from a distance; emails, shared documents, skype conference calls, and there are many websites that are made especially to facilitate collaboration under their roof.
|Photo by Adam Yosef|
But even if the problems are different, human nature remains the same. And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomyAnd that statement just about sums this all up for me. That's the thing that I was puzzling over. My 'need' of wanting to do what I do with social media and community building, and my other 'need' for independence and to be able to work alone at times. And I now happily realise I don't have to choose between one or the other, or wrestle with the concept, I can do both! :)
In what way do you work best?
Do you prefer working directly with people, or do you crave some peace and quiet to get your work done?
Is the internet a Bad Thing as it removes some of the need to meet up with people face to face?
Do you miss grabbing a coffee and having a meeting with someone? Do you still insist on this even though you could have a meeting online?
I'd love your thoughts!
|4am Project event at Birmingham Library|
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