“It’s organisations simply looking at what inspires everyone with their passion, hobbies and interests that fire up their imagination, creativity and openness to learning and then applying these to meaningful work.” – Helen Blunden
Social learning consultant and trainer, Helen Blunden of Activate Learn, recently posted a delightful blog called How to Knit a Compelling Story in an Age of Change. In it Helen charts her own journey of developing a personal learning practice partially through her involvement in knitting, a craft she has been passionately involved in for years.
Helen describes the interactions and modelled learning and knowledge sharing behaviours of the knitters she regularly interacts with, and describes how this has inspired and supported her own “… incredible desire to always continually learn and experience new things.”
As I plough on through various iterations of my own young professional practice I rely hugely on social media as a forum through which to build a “village of support”*, conduct research, experiment with branding techniques, and promote my services. Online resources have been particularly vital (and enjoyable) means through which to conduct personal learning; I was lucky to come into this latest stint of self-employment with some degree of confidence in using social media and blogging to engage with, and learn from, others. I found my online ‘voice’ before I started using it for career advancement; I found that online voice in a place that takes many people by surprise.
I am an obsessive fan of kung fu and wuxia movies**. I love them. As a former choreographer I find their audacious creativity, virtuosic performances and endlessly inventive choreography irresistible. For many years I blogged about the movies and participated in online forums, especially as an administrator on a page on Facebook. I have had to neglect these things over the last couple of years as planning and setting up my professional practice has been all absorbing, but I do look forward to getting back to blogging and posting pictures like this on Facebook again:
The fan base I was involved in was far more diverse that may people would expect, and I was lucky enough to connect with networks who were generous with their knowledge and their joy in the movies. I have recently come to understand that even while I was enjoying myself hugely I was also engaged in learning a huge amount about film making, Chinese history, Hong Kong culture, as well as reflecting on my own choreographic practice and my own culture.
Interacting with my fellow obsessives also helped me to find that ‘voice’ and have the confidence to ‘mix it’ with an online community and share my opinions, an interesting experience for me in a fairly male-dominated fan community talking about testosterone drenched films.
I had one particularly important experience a couple of years ago when I was helping to administrate the Heroic Sisterhood Facebook page. Someone left a poorly worded comment that was not exactly trolling but could still have been read as insensitive and potentially hurtful and divisive for our little tribe of devotees. I diplomatically invited him to unpack that comment, prepared, all the while, to delete his comment and bounce him off the page if it turned out that he was looking for trouble. As it happens, during our online dialogue he was able to explain himself better and we were able to then join together in sending a more considered message to our network. I was pleased with the way this had turned out and felt good about the role I had played. Shortly before this experience I had completed a work project during which I was exposed to some toxic behaviour from certain stakeholders over an extended period of time. This affected my faith in my own ability to handle people. The opportunity to contribute positively to an online forum helped me to reclaim that confidence and find my voice again.
I couldn’t agree with Helen more that “…organisations have a lot to learn from knitters.” As they have to learn from chopsocky fans, sports clubs, social enterprises, volunteer movements. Learning experiences and opportunities for reflection can open up for us anywhere, and inspiration is all around us. Any communal activity is great people watching experience; much can be learned about team building, networking, collaboration, knowledge sharing and working with diversity.
It’s too easy to find inspiration in blogs like the one Helen wrote. Thanks for sharing those thoughts, Helen, and for prompting me to reflect on my own compelling story.
*A lovely phrase coined by Trevor Young and expounded in this article.