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Finding WOW – the Toxteth Riots & Wimbledon Photographers

Regular readers (and those who have just randomly come across my LinkedIn or Twitter profile) will know I like WOW projects. The term comes from Tom Peter’s article in Fast Company magazine back in 1999 that explained that in the new economy, all work is project work. And you are your projects!

He said: “Your goal should be to work in perpetuity with Wow people, on Wow Projects, for Wowable clients.” It’s still true today – and will be in the future.

From the start of my working life, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in some Wow projects with some Wow people. I’ve been reminded of this a couple of times in the last 24 hours.

Firstly, I picked up the paper this morning to find a story about the Toxteth riots being 30 years ago this week. That was the week I started my first job

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– a Trainee Press Photographer at Mercury Press Agency in Liverpool.

I’d not bargained for my first week in employment to involve the coverage of some of the worst rioting on mainland Britain.

I can always remember the phone ringing late at night after the family had gone to bed. I was told that another photographer would pick me up (I didn’t have a car) and would take me to Toxteth where there were some sort of disturbances.

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The first pictures that I took were of riot police dragging away an injured colleague as buildings burned around them. It was scary – but exciting for an 18 year old who had dreamt of being a press photographer. It was what I’d wanted to do through my adolescence.

My mum and dad were concerned – especially when I didn’t arrive home for another 20 hours (that meant I had worked through the night and had no sleep for 30+ hours). I’d photographed the aftermath of people trying to put their lives back together after the riots.

I was back out in Toxteth the next night – and for many more nights over the next month. I witnessed CS Gas being used to quell a riot on the streets of mainland Britain for the first time; photographed a policeman stabbed in a related demonstration; and recorded a protester run over by a police van and then dragged in to the back of the vehicle with his back broken.

I also photographed “Minister for Merseyside” Michael Heseltine being pelted with food by children. It was a baptism of fire for a young photographer – but remains a Wow experience in my life.

This week, I’ve watched quite a few hours of Wimbledon coverage on BBC HD. The quality of images is superb – nearly as good as having a courtside seat. Looking at the background of the TV images, about 60% of the photographers sitting at Wimbledon Centre Court this week were my colleagues up to 1994, when I hung up my cameras. So they’ve continued to have Wow time for 17 years since I left this work behind. I got immense enjoyment from having the best seats in the house at Olympic Games and World Cup Finals with these photographers. It was a Wow!

From Toxteth Riots through to world class sports coverage – I had a Wow experience. Since those times, in the last 17 years, I’ve been fortunate to work on some Wow projects. Including growing and selling a business, winning a National award for technology – and most recently managing to find “funemployment” projects helping a Duchess and creating a children’s cricket charity.

I’m currently on the look-out for the next Wow projects. First step, as you might expect from the title of my blog, is developing my Personal Network for the new challenge. Do contact me if you have anything Wow that I might be able to help with!

Where you live – creativity lessons from Bono & Bowie

June 30, 2011 4 comments

The place you live is mostly associated with quality of environment. However, you can’t underestimate the effect it has on your ability to create.

I listened in to a BBC Radio 2 interview by Chris Evans with Victoria Wood the other day. They were discussing the creative process and Wood said: “If you have no life – you have nothing to write about.” It’s important not to become so detached that you separate yourself from the elements of life that give creative energy.

After Wood said this, Evans relayed a tale about how David Bowie calling Bono to say “I can’t write anything interesting anymore”. Bono replied “Look at where you live” – Bowie lived in Switzerland – “You need to move.” Bowie took the advice

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and moved to New York – and the creative juices flowed again.

I’m enjoying the benefits of moving out of the countryside and in to the city of Bath. It gives me the energy I need and the right lifestyle to get the creative mind whirring again. By coincidence, I’m off to Switzerland next week for a nice bit of relaxation – but the city (and the network of people in it) will be what brings me to life!

I met a man on the internet….

June 17, 2011 6 comments

Don’t worry – it’s not quite how it sounds. I’m not joining those newspaper headlines about Facebook fuelling divorce. However, I am meeting some very interesting people on-line – and then meeting up in the “real world”.

I had breakfast with one of them this morning. Rob Geraghty is an entrepreneur – involved in many projects – including his presentation training company the Wow Factor. Rob got in touch with me (via LinkedIn) after stumbling across my blog – and in particular liking the idea of “funemployment”.

We met for breakfast this morning – and one of our similarities was how baffled our wives are by this concept

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of people connecting via the web and meeting up. There is always a raised eyebrow when the response to “what are you doing today” is “I’m having a coffee with a man I met on the internet.” It does seem strange…

However, I’ve been thinking about it – and actually, it’s one of the brilliant opportunities thrown up by social media. In the past you would try and find like-minded people by traveling to conferences, speaking to lots of people with vaguely similar interests – and occasionally finding someone worth connecting with.

In our new world, you can easily find like minded people. You can do the research and understand what makes the person tick – and get to a stage of comfort way before you decide to write that first introductory message to initiate a connection.

I read today about Google’s new tool for “on-line reputation management”. It’s called “Me on the Web” – and can be found in your Google Dashboard. Google and many others recognise that our on-line presentation will be increasingly important as we build our Personal Networks of the future. I don’t believe this to be just a marketing exercise – it’s a way of reflecting on-line your values, interests and character.

Rob has added to my list of men met on the internet. Others include:-

Chris Redmond is an inspirational leader – and thought provoking blogger. (Attended one of his charity fund raising events in Reading.)

Jordi Robert-Ribes is a internationally respected speaker on networks. (Met for lunch in London when he was over from his home in Andorra)

Benjamin Wirtz is a young entrepreneur creating applications to help people manage their networks. (met for coffee in London)

Anyway, Rob was good fun to be around – a very similar connector. Within a week of his email – and before we met in person – we’d made a connection that should be of benefit to the Cricket charity that I’m involved in. Today, we worked through a few ideas that might be mutually beneficial – and our on-line “research” of each other before this meeting has already accelerated the level of connection and trust.

Connecting via the web is undoubtedly the most efficient way to meet like-minded people. I will be continuing to meet men on the internet – and I do recommend you give it a try!

Replacing half your friends every 7 years – and the tattoo consequences

June 8, 2011 8 comments

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about the research undertaken in the Netherlands which concluded that most people replace half of their friends every 7 years. It was brought to my attention by a couple of on-line friends – Jordi Robert-Ribes and Ben Wirtz – who both happened to raise it when we met up in the real-world for the first time. Maybe they were both hinting there was only a 50:50 chance we would still be in contact in 7 years … or less!

The research came out of a project in Holland called “Where friends are made. Context, Contacts, Consequences,” and was set up by Beate Völker. Beate doesn’t seem that keen on connecting – she has one of those Twitter accounts with protected Tweets! The actual research was run by Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University (not on Twitter at all!). It always baffles me when

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Sociologists/Anthropologist/academics don’t “come out to play” in the world of social media.

Mollenhorst conducted a survey of 1,007 people aged from 18 to 65. He contacted them twice – with a 7 year gap in between. From the original group, 604 people answered on both occasions. The survey contained questions such as: Who do you talk with, regarding personal issues? Who helps you with DIY in your home? Who do you pop by to see? Where did you get to know that person? And where do you meet that person now?

The results showed that personal network sizes seemed to remained stable, but that many members of the network were new. About 30 percent of discussion partners and practical helpers had the same position in a typical person’s Personal Network seven years later. The big finding was that only 48 percent of the original contacts were still part of the network.

I have thought for a while that this was interesting research – and it became more relevant after I saw the video of a lady – Suzy (also from the Netherlands) – making a permanent record of her 152 Facebook Friends in the form of a tattoo!

Currently the video has been watched by over 300,000 people. It’s not getting as many likes as dislikes – as I write the score is 511 likes to 1,018 dislikes. Let’s hope that there are not too many of her friends in the disklikes.

Well, Suzy is on-target with the work of Robin Dunbar. She’s bang on with 152 friends and his Dunbar Number of 150. However, she might have also given some thought to the work of her fellow Netherlander Gerald Mollenhorst. She’s in for a lot more than a 7 year itch!

[UPDATE - Tattoo story was a hoax (a good one at that) - changing 50% of friends every 7 years was not! More at CBS News]

Small Worlds, Connecting the Dots and Dark Side of the Moon

It never ceases to amaze me how the world connects. The “dots” we create as we meet people, take on new experiences and generally make our mark on the world often join together to create startling insights and opportunities.

One of my favourite examples of this comes from Steve Jobs. If you get a chance, watch this video of him addressing students at a Stanford University Graduation ceremony about 6 years ago.

The speech is superb – emotional and motivational. Jobs manages to make you laugh, cry and – most important of all – gets the brains (young and old) to click

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and tick in thought.

One part of the speech focussed on following your heart. Just doing things – that make no sense at the time. He told the tale of dropping out of college and for some reason taking a course on calligraphy. He didn’t know why he took the course – but looking back he can clearly connect this to being obsessed with getting the fonts right on the original Apple Macintosh computer. That’s why today our Mac and Windows computers have great fonts!

Steve said: “You can’t connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them going back.” That was the only part of his magnificent oratory that grated with me. Entrepreneurs can’t say can’t – and you can’t say can’t to an entrepreneur! I think building a Personal Network is the strategic pursuit of creating the dots with a view to making those connections work.

Anyway, this week’s “small worlds” in my life.

1. I bought a book that I’d had my eye on for a while – “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield. I’m not a designer – but I do like fonts. I’d seen the book reviewed – and a skim through in the bookshop convinced me it would be a fun read. I settled down at home to read the intro – and the opening of the book was about the Steve Jobs story above. I’d had it in mind as the intro for “my book” (when I finally get around to writing it!). Ah well, another excuse to not put pen to paper yet.

2. My last blog post was about Reflexivity. I’d never heard the word – and was struggling to find a meaning for it. Lo and behold, one of my twitter pals got in touch about something else – and I mentioned the word (he’s far brighter than me – so I thought he might know a little about it). He sure did:-

As it happens “reflexivity” of two types I am expert on:

– philosophical reflexivity that is concerned with the relation of concepts to experience & how they co-effect each other {example: no point in concepts of left and right if you can’t move. And that is what we find: kids with paralysis & motor difficulties don’t form spatial concepts like left and right easily}

– sociological reflexivity, especially in the work of Pierre Bourdieu the French sociologist (now dead), who pioneered the use of it in empirical studies that avoid dead ends by understanding reflexive co-relations {example: buying behaviour for Chanel No. 5 is based on idea of exclusivity. IF too many class BC&D women buy it exclusivity is destroyed & sales plummet. Therefore Chanel in the 80′s used jazz music in adverts because this put off C&D buyers & some B’s whilst A’s loved it. This re-established the “exclusivity” of their market & sales became stable again. This pattern is necessary to all long term perfume sales. Its a great example of the co-relation of cultural/economic reflexivity.}

3. My blog has been getting some serious traffic (for me) in recent weeks. I hoped it was that people had recognised my talent – but no! It’s the the release of the film – “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” that has triggered it. I wrote a post a while ago entitle “Dark Side of the Moon” – and it has managed to reside on the first page of Google’s search engine. Who says wordpress.com is no good for SEO!

The “small world” on this one is that also residing on Google’s first page for “Dark Side of the Moon” is fellow Bath Tweeter Marcus Tullius Cicer – @georgianbath!

Hoping to join the dots with my Roman colleague at a Tweetup in Bath soon

Reflexivity – I liked the word so much, I bought the domain name!

May 30, 2011 3 comments

Reading Mrs Moneypenny’s column in the Financial Times is a regular weekend treat. The FT Weekend is the only printed newspaper that I buy each week – and her column is a must read.

Mrs M’s columns can seldom be judged by their titles. This week it’s called “Me, go on a diet? Fat chance”. At the end of the article is a mention of Lynda Gratton’s book “The Shift”. Mrs M tells me she is an expert on the future of work – so I couldn’t resist an explore.

As regular readers will know, as well as extolling the value of Personal Networks – my blog posts track many areas of life. They also touch on my personal quest to find

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a new life after funemployment.

Lynda’s view on life and work is a hit with me – and I’ve only watched her promotional video clip (below) and read the first few chapters of her book (I will do a review when I’ve finished it).

http://vimeo.com/22283151

I liked her focus in the video on three big shifts in thinking:-

=> Forget about being a generalist – learn mastery
=> It’s not about competing – build relationships with your “posse”
=> Decide on the life you want to lead – work to do exciting productive stuff

It encouraged me to download the book and start to read. I’m hooked…

Most importantly, I found a new, cool word to add to my vocabulary “REFLEXIVITY”. It’s hard to find a good definition of “reflexivity”. Wikipedia gives much more than its usual definition – and has different angles from Sociology, Economics and Anthropology! The one I liked the most was from Lynda – “the invention of the self through debate and self-reflection.” She also talks about what she calls “The Rise of Reflexivity”:-

“As families become rearranged, and work groups become increasingly diverse, so people begin to think more deeply about themselves, what is important to them and the lives they want to construct. This reflexivity becomes crucial to understanding choices and creating energy and courage to make the tough decisions and trade-offs that will be necessary.”

In my work on Personal Networks – I seem to be tracking similar lines. I have come to the conclusion that there are probably just three elements to building a successful and enriching life:-

1. Who am I? Understanding who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, what gives you energy, what turns you off, etc. For example, I love the work of people like Usman Sheikh at Identifii (who I wrote about a few months ago) who aims to stop 75% of graduates ending up in jobs they dislike by offering no-cost/low cost psychometric testing.

2. What do I want to do? This is finding the passion in your life that means you fulfil the Confucius quotation: “Choose a job you like and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Was that really Confucius – or just a recruitment agency advert!!??)

3. Who do I know? Having people around you who share your passion, give you energy and will be on the journey with you. Reciprocally balanced by you having the good nature to give more back than you get.

It’s worth taking time out to think and reflect on these things. Getting it right is a life’s work. Reading another article in the FT Weekend by Gillian Tett “Retire? Only in Europe …” Gillians says: “As a 43-year-old Brit, I used to assume I was halfway through my working career, but I am starting to rethink. Could “retirement” eventually turn into a quaint 20th-century idea? Could we all have more “lives” ahead of us than we realise?” A life’s work will mean working all your life.

So reflexivity should definitely be on your to-do list. Anyway, I’ve become the Victor Kiam of words – I liked it so much, I bought the domain name. Coming soon at http://reflexivity.me….

How Technology Fosters Strong Ties – a guest post by Joel D. Canfield

April 19, 2011 2 comments

I’m pleased to welcome an “on-line” friend, Joel D Canfield, to the Personal Network Blog. He’s agreed to be my first “Guest Blogger”!

The clearest communication happens face to face, eye to eye. One purpose of my family’s nomadism is to meet eye to eye people we’ve previously known only over the internet. Some few we’ve spoken to by telephone but that’s a tiny portion of the people and conversations.

When it comes to technology and relationships, you know the stereotype: the asocial geek sitting in his basement in the glow of a computer screen, with the misguided belief that those avatars and screen names he interacts with are real relationships. That stereotype, accurate as it may be, doesn’t render technology meaningless in developing and maintaining

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the strong ties of real relationships.

Best Beloved and I use technology to maintain family connections and our real-life friendships from before we began our nomad adventure. These days, though, we’re meeting people we would never have known without technology’s ability to introduce us to real friends all over the earth. (We may even be meeting Phil this summer!) As we move on, technology allows us to maintain, develop, strengthen those ties.

The nearly two dozen online friends we’ve met have yielded precious few surprises in real life. They have all been more or less what we expected. Strong ties created through technology aren’t less valuable or real than those created in “real life”, they just don’t include the option to shake hands or hug. (I’m a hugger.)

I’ll take a hand-written letter over an email or Facebook post any day. There is nothing in the world like sharing a meal with someone to let me get to know them and them to know me. In a perfect world, those are the ways I would foster strong ties in my relationships. Until that perfect world, technology will continue to be a useful tool in fostering friendship’s strong ties.

Bio:
Though he pays his bills as a business author, writing and business coach, and web developer, Joel D Canfield is first and foremost a philosopher who believes that finding
why makes what and how become clear. Get to know him at http://FindingWhy.com.

Nepotism and Dunbar’s Number

April 12, 2011 3 comments

Regular readers will know that I’ve been moving house. I’ve made the leap from a very pretty home in a small village beneath Belvoir Castle (the home of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland) to life in the centre of the City of Bath. Both are time capsules in different ways.

The village I have moved from is called Knipton – and my former home there could be dated back as a settlement to the days of the vikings. It’s the sort of village that Robin Dunbar would have researched when worked out his number – 150.

As readers from the UK will know, it’s our year for a census. I took the time to dig out what life looked like just over 120 years ago. No surprises

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, the village was divided in to two areas (North end and South end) – and they were made up of approximately 150 people each. Please take some time to click the links and skim through the names, families and birthplaces.

What is most striking from the census is that most of the people were born and lived their whole lives in the village – or have come in from a maximum of 5-10 miles away. There were a small number of family names making up the numbers – and many of them I can recognise in the area today. Families stayed together – and their jobs and crafts were passed down from generation to generation. This was nepotism at its finest. Was there something wrong with that?

We live in a world with very confusing signals. On one hand we want to get back to family values. On the other we want to fight a war on nepotism. Strange!

Last week, I wrote about the UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg making policy in “Canutish” style. He basically said that it was now “what you know” not “who you know” that will matter from now on. At the weekend, I watched a BBC current affairs comedy programme – “Have I got News for You”. It’s very entertaining show, full of satire – and the funniest guy on the panel by far is Paul Merton. On this topic, he didn’t create a funny. He just said:

“That’s what people do. They want to look after their kids. They want them to go to the best schools and they want them to have the best jobs. You can’t stop that.”

Many a true word is spoken in jest!

End “who you know” culture – War declared on nepotism!

April 5, 2011 10 comments

Well there’s nothing more “King Canutish” than trying to stem the tide against human nature! Today, the UK’s coalition government has declared war on nepotism. See the report here at the BBC website of an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Regular readers of the blog will have seen a post about British culture called “Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network” earlier in the year. The main point of the post was that Personal Networks can bring influence and power. Alongside this was a more worrying trend that the increasingly closed network of “old school chums” in government leads to our politicians being out of touch.

I happened to be watching breakfast TV when Clegg was being interviewed. I nearly choked on my cornflakes!

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He said: “We will stop all informal internships in Whitehall, in government, so that you can’t just have this network where people get an internship because of who they know. They should get an internship because of what they know.”

I’m a big fan of meritocracy – we’ve all worked with people who have little talent, but great connections! However, what needs to be recognised is that in the absence of knowing a person, we test out people ultimately through reference to others. Here are two personal examples from the last week that illustrate that “who you know” is so important.

First example, I’m planning to invest in a small US start-up in the area of crowd sourcing. I had a conference call with one of the advisers of the business who is based in San Francisco last week. We’d not met/spoken before – but I have the luxury of checking out his CV via Wikipedia and LinkedIn. He can do the same for me. CVs over – how do we connect. Well, he knows and is trusted by my friend (and start-up founder), Todd, who I’ve know for 20 years. At the end of our first call, the guy in SF floated “do you know ****”? No, but I did know someone who knew **** well – who used to be my companies chairman – and onwards. We’re all reassured by the trust of the “who we know”. CVs are the “what you know”!

Secondly, I had a tweet last night from a Friend of a Friend – Chris Book. We’ve not met, and this was his first tweet to me. He’s from Bath and is very good pal of one of my first connections in my new home town. He tweeted me because of who I know – and knowing my interest in Personal Networks. He wanted my opinion. His tweet was:-

Interesting thought (ish) – my last contract I got through linked in (exactly 3 years ago) this one through twitter

My opinion is that LinkedIn is primarily a CV – and has filled a gap in finding candidates, collating information. The “recommends” service has little use. If you wanted to business with someone or employ, you would pick up the phone/email and check with their connections. Twitter has moved this on so much, you can see whether people are genuinely active – and who wants to know them and engage! Twitter gives the who you really know and have a relationship with – and how they interact with you in a transparent format. LinkedIn gives you the “what you know” and “what you’ve done” presentation.

Sorry Nick! I’m a big fan of the coalition but you need to accept that “who you know” will always be our way of quickly building trust to offering partnerships, employment, opportunities – and internships! As Social Media develops Personal Networks will become more valuable every day. Everyone need to keep focussed on the “who you know”. It will always be the most important and valuable asset you have in life. The CV and application form doesn’t tell the true story….

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