Posted by & filed under Open Letters.

Hi Brian

As the “at a distance” member of FASST you may like to know what “the London lot” got up to yesterday. We met round at my place.

The people

The “we” was made up of :

  • Gavin who helped me to name FASST  (and places himself more on the boundary than within it).
  • Andrew Orford who describes himself as a FASST participant, which I think is good terminology. He leads some interesting local projects. When he brings them into FASST he’s free to discuss them on an abstract level and in the context of local action related to global realities and futurist ideas. You will recognise all this as relevant to my interests in the Landscape of Change. (Regarding discussing abstractions, you may see similarities to my relationships between theory and practice regarding my practical projects)
  • Christopher Wray who is probably at the  “core of FASST” as we are interested in the details of the processes we are setting up within FASST, as well as FASST’s group identity and purpose, and how we can help each other with the complementary initiatives we are involved with in Africa.
  • Me

Our four paths cross in different ways and this was the first time the four of us have been together to discuss FASST/collaboration. We’ve had various discussions in pairs in recent weeks, so this was a kind of group update.

Starting the session

We started off in an informal social way, and then agreed a structure based on our individual reasons for getting together, and on the time we had available. We weren’t looking for agreement – just greater clarity about “where people are” and how we relate as a group.

At previous meetings here, when Andrew and I were together, and also when Christopher and Gavin were here together, we had each written a review at the end of our conversations onto a personal A1 sheet.

You know the doors to the balcony. I stuck the four A1 sheets up there for reference. We knew things had moved on considerably for all of us in the meantime, so the sheets were by no means the latest picture. They were just relevant background, and reminders of where we had come from.

We agreed that at the end of the session we’d each work independently again on an A1 sheet to record our current thinking. (At the end it was interesting to notice what topics were emerging strongly over time.)

The structure

We needed some kind of structure because we can all “talk for England”.

You know what I’m like for jumping from detail to overview, and connecting to dozens of related ideas along the way. Imagine that to the power of four. We are all interested in patterns of information sharing and added value, from present and future perspectives, in human and digital ways, and at all levels from global, to hyper local, to personal, to neurophysiological – and from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives. We also all like to give the context for what we’re talking about, so you can imagine what our free-flowing conversations cover, even if we are only meeting in pairs. Obviously we needed to state objectives and find a way to meet them.

The fact that we all turned out to have different objectives was no problem – we were responsible for meeting our own objectives.

Christopher’s objective related to new ideas. As the session progressed he called out when he got his first new idea – minimum objective achieved – and for some of the subsequent ones. It was an interesting positive evaluation feedback process for the rest of us to enjoy. 

We decided to allocate the time by people rather than by topic.

We took turns. Each one of us had five minutes to speak about whatever we were most concerned to share, while the other three listened carefully in silence. Then we had two minutes for silent reflection. Then another five minutes for Q and A.

After all four of us had done this we had a free flowing conversation.

We allowed the last quarter of an hour for personal refection captured on our individual A1 sheets (Christopher chose to add his to his earlier sheet).

We found that wasn’t the end. We were interested to see each others reflections, and so for another session it would be worth putting time aside for this final sharing. Fortunately we did have some leeway regarding times people needed to leave, beyond the formally agreed end time.

The A1 sheets

You can think of these sheets as individual, personal memory joggers of key interests and insights that emerge during a given meeting. It’s nothing like the agreed minutes of a meeting, but it is a version of reality.

We can each use the contents of our own sheet elsewhere to say “This is what I took away from the session”. Each sheet is a personal view, valid at a specific time, and influenced by what everyone else has contributed.

I am encouraging us all to take photos of what we put up and to share them publicly on twitter, but there is a tension in doing that.  What we record is simply “thinking aloud for our own purpose” i.e. not necessarily creating something that will communicate meaning to anyone else. Andrew has a talent for laying his thoughts out in a clear, visual way, which does create meaning for others. He has set us an example in the way he immediately shares what has captured. See @orford tweet for 12th October and another “sent the same day” tweet of our August 14th discussion.

I wonder if @GCP66 and@harshcopywriter share my reticence at showing session sheets to people outside the conversation. I certainly don’t have the same talents as Andrew – but I do like to help myself to explore ideas by doing diagrams as well as by “wordifying them”

Maybe I’ll get brave and tweet you the diagram on my sheet, to talk through when we next Skype.