Posted by & filed under Open Letters.

Hi Olivia

Your BIDN email (deadline today) said:

“Reminder: Let’s celebrate some not-shit things that happened in 2016!”

  • What has happened in your life this year that you want to celebrate?
  • What had you been striving for for a while that you managed to accomplish this year?

My reply is wide ranging – so I’m numbering the subheadings:

  1. My BIDN perspective on 2016
  2. U.lab – Moving from a course to a community
  3. Teal For Startups
  4. FASST and Holacracy
  5. Exponentially Human
  6. End of 2016

1 – My BIDN perspective on 2016

I’m looking back at notes I made at Before I Die Network (BIDN) events during 2016, and appreciating them as time capsules of the year.  As you’ve requested, my perspective here is a personal and positive one, so here goes:

For me 2016 began in an uncomfortable  state of transition and uncertainty, and I’m pleasantly surprised to discover that progress has been made, both in what I do and in how I see it. I had even more freedom than usual to “be myself” at the start of the year, and even fewer role models, and that was challenging.

In the context of the “Before I Die Network” I’m aware of being older than most of “the tribe” so I haven’t got as much time as other people to progress my to-do list.

My notes from a BIDN event  early in the year reminded me that, while I had no desire to stop being “a learner”, I also needed to look at what I have already learned and see what might be of value to others and how I might share it. I needed to look at my own insecurities and my reticence about sharing insights that I’ve gained through many years of work. I needed to recognise the value of having done that work outside any institutional boundaries.

Working on my own has meant complete lack of external financial support, but also complete freedom from any institutional constraints or traditional measures of value or success. Instead of judging myself by the standards of traditional organisations (where I have no place in the recognised hierarchy) I can choose to celebrate my pioneering zeal, my determination to follow my curiosity, and my decision (back in 2000) to embrace a low-responsibility, flexible-working, low-income, lifestyle. That approach was my response to the challenge of achieving a life-work balance, where I could do what I value.

I genuinely believe that people’s “value” should not be judged by their income, their level of consumption, or their job title.  However, old habits of thought are hard to escape, and I still find myself slipping into the trap of accepting the current value system when I’m with a roomful of strangers. If I start to judge myself according to that value system (of correlation between salary and personal worth) then I can easily feel worthless compared to others in the room who are there because of their organisational affiliation and job title. I do believe that, in future, attitudes and work-reward relationships will alter. It will become increasingly common for people to do work aligned with their purpose and what they value, without also having to do other work to pay the bills. These ideas are increasingly discussed now in the context of Universal basic Income, and of the impact on employment of Artificial Intelligence, Robots and Autonomous Vehicles. During 2016 I have been getting better at simply introducing myself as “independent” when people want a job title from me.

I feel less isolated now than I felt back in January. On reflection that may be because I began to feel more “mainstream” as my “tribe(s)” became easier to find and join. (NB In this context the “tribes” I belong to are a bit like a collection of extended families, with multiple connections between them, so it’s easy to belong to several.) BIDN is one of my tribes thanks to what it does and how it does it (by the way, Olivia, I don’t know anyone else leading such an enjoyable, fun approach to what could be existential anguish – you are amazing and inspirational).

I finish the year looking forward to further development on things that seem to be “coming together”.

2 – U.lab – Moving from a course to a community

Like quite a few other people during 2016, I have been doing the u.lab MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for a second time. One of the benefits of a MOOC is that (unless you want a certificate) you can do as much or as little as you choose and the course materials can be accessed at any time, including after the course has finished. I could have simply continued studying the materials on my own at my own pace after my first u.lab course, but I chose to re-enrol. I wanted to revisit the main theme and also do some of the practical exercises I’d missed out on last time. In addition I wanted to continue being part of a local u.lab learning circle. Being “part of u.lab” is a bit like being “part of the Open University”. It provides an immediate point of contact, a shared “cultural experience”, a language and a framework for connecting on wider interests and personal perspectives.

In its way u.lab is becoming one of the “tribes” I belong to. The learning circle I have been working with has formed itself into an ongoing online u.lab group, with regular monthly meetings on Zoom, and additional ad hoc meetings online and face-to-face as people decide what suits them. We began with simply the six people in our circle. We have been joined by other u.labbers that we know personally, and we’ll welcome others who find us and want to join.

Yesterday was the final live session of the 2016 u.lab MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). One of the emerging themes of that session was that u.lab is becoming more that an eight week course. It is becoming a community, and our continuation group is one example of the truth of that. The emergence of community is a good example of the relationship between u.lab in theory and u.lab in practice. At a macro level it looks at various broken systems, and how “the way we do things” is no longer working. On a personal level it is about learning to lean into “the emerging future”, rather than trying to be over-prescriptive and controlling. U.lab wasn’t set up to grow a community, but that is what is naturally emerging.

For more information on u.lab see

3 – Teal For Startups

Teal for Startups (T4S) is another of my 2016 tribes, which I have found supportive in many direct and indirect ways. There are huge areas of overlap between u.lab ideas (and community and culture) and T4S.  Some of my personal, positive take-aways from T4S during 2016 are:

  • More contacts with people who are exploring aspects of organisational change and  “what makes sense” as we move forward in our rapidly changing world
  • A “home” for expressing and developing my ideas about alternative value systems through being part of the T4S wealth stream.
  • Experience of applying Teal principles (and u.lab ones) in practice
  • Experience of using unfamiliar (high-bandwidth) tools for online group work.
  • Experience of a rapid growth, purposeful, shared-culture yet diverse, collaborative community scattered across the globe

The best way to get a flavour of T4S is via the T4S Medium Page

4 – FASST and Holacracy

Dadamac Connect posts of 2016 are dominated by the emergence of FASST. One of the things I’m happiest about as we head to the year’s end is how it’s shaping up.

I know its structure (it’s an inspiral – see December 11th FASST update)

Holacracy was designed for rather different organisational models, but has useful ideas and structures to inspire us.

There are now a dozen or more of us pushing and prodding at FASST (and relating it to Holacracy). We’re discovering things about purpose, and blocks, and roles that need energising. We’re discovering what FASST is and what it’s good for and where it may take us. We’re also discovering that it’s operating system is of interest to other collaborative organisations, and so it it becoming part of a “collaboration of collaborations” as well as a platform for individual people to collaborate with each other.

FASST is taking on a life of its own  – and I’m delighted to be part of its tribe.

5 – Exponentially Human

“Exponentially Human” is a chapter that I’ve contributed to a book on futures which is due to be published early in 2017. (See Nov 19th – Exponentially Human and “the story so far) Contributing my chapter is one of the practical outcomes I can point to for 2016.

I see FASST as having a part to play in our journey towards an “Exponentially Human” future, and I believe that people in my current tribes (some already mentioned above, some simply resting in my thoughts as I write) will be part of that future. (Olivia, this is all part of what I want to explore with you / BIDN when we get some time together.)

I have no idea where the idea of being “Exponentially Human’ will take me, or what “exponentially human” friends I’ll make along the way, but it’s looking positive.

6 – End of 2016

So that’s me on your deadline of Decemebr 16th. Lots of challenges ahead for next year but plenty to look back on celebrate – and the way different threads in my life are coming together, I’m hoping it will get much easier for me to write shorter posts in 2017. Seasons greetings to you and everyone in BIDN. Thanks for your inspiring encouragement during the past 12 months and for nudging me to take this time for reflection on personal positives and progress in 2016.