Monthly Archives: March 2009

Modern Ada

Yesterday I pledged to post on my blog, a  recognition for my unsung heroines as part of the Ada Lovelace international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.  

As I have been drawn into the web of second life, web2.0 and social media I have made contact and friendships with a number of women who not only excel in their professional field but also have a seemingly unlimited supply of energy and innovation.

Through barcamps, Be2camp 2008, twitter and other social apps, friends such as Pam Broviak (Second Life), Krishna De (bizgrowth),  Jodie Miners (be2camp), Su Butcher (architecture), Cindy FrewenWuellner  (futures), Mel Starrs (sustainability), Soulla Stylianou (second life) and of course Suw Charman (social media / kits and mortar) continue to impress with their use and understanding of web technology.

It was through Second Life and  the Public Works sim I met Pam Broviak (or rather her avatar Pam Renoir) and have since shared much on family, social life and all things webby across all manner of web applications. Yet it is Pam’s drive, as her twitter profile states “working to integrate engineering, Web 2.0, & virtual worlds” that continues to amaze and inspire in equal doses.

If there was a nomination for a Modern Ada, Pam would get my vote ( as I know she has the vote of others) in making virtual worlds and web technology have real impact in what is often a cynical and unforgiving industry.

Advertisements

passivhaus innovation circle

The next Innovation Circle Session on ‘Passivhaus’ will look at the possible influencing factors of implementing the Passivhaus principles in the UK.  Friday 20th March 1-3pm at the Adelphi Conference Room, Adelphi Building, UCLan.   

 

Led by Sabine Engelhardt – Green Cities, Manchester, and Facilitated by George Hall

Details passivhaus innovation-circle-flyer

recession thoughts and tips

The recent excellent BBC Life on Mars series painted a harsh, dark and in many ways ugly portrait of life in Britain in the mid 1970’s. It was in that this environment I started a career in construction, a young trainee QS, working a ‘statutory’ three day week with fuel and power rationing (only able to buy petrol on alternative days depending on the first initial of your surname)

Since then I have experienced and survived the industry’s many cycles of boom and bust, times of recession and times of plenty, often caused by conditions outside of the sector itself.

It wasn’t until a later reading of Charles Handy’s Empty Raincoat that I understood I had developed a strategy for dealing with this cyclic industry. Handy sees the key to surviving change as being the ability to move from one sigmoid curve to the next before the current one peaks, or before the current one becomes a bandwagon and is no longer cutting edge. (see here)

In times of recession, innovation is the hallmark of successful organisations, and of people that survive. In my experience this means looking ahead, identifying the next emerging innovation/theme/idea, and getting rapidly up to speed. Over my career, this has led to moving from work to university, to becoming an expat, to moving from project management into planning, from planning to quality, to TQM, to collaborative working and business improvement, to benchmarking, to fm and then into independent support provision.

The move into planning serves as a good example. I was able to shelter the downturn at the time, being one of the few who could (or wanted to) operate a computer. We are talking 80’s here, the office had one pc shared between a secretary and myself. I cut my teeth on Pertmaster. Initially this produced crude gantt charts as a row of green X’s, but provided a much needed USP to winning work, and was the start of a short career as a computer based planner.

In the world of business improvement, quality, TQM and benchmarking, being part of a supportive network, and having mentors outside of the industry, proved incredibly useful, bringing new learning ideas in to the organisation

All this, I believe, improved the value I was able to add, in addressing the emerging issues that clients were facing. being ready to deal with this emergence meant that I was able to move as doors open, and explore new avenues. The lessons from each of these unexpected events has created a resilience that enables me to work in a number of sectors and areas.

So, here is a very personal guide to survival. It may not be the exact menu for you, but it will, hopefully spark a few thoughts and ideas that will help.

Be Enthusiastic: Recharge your batteries now, get out and do something wild. Appearing tired at work, and not hungry for change, is bad news

Be Ready: Identify the next emerging theme. What skills and knowledge can you acquire that will add value to you and the organisation. Get intelligence and use it.

Be Flexible: Have a plan, but also go with the flow as opportunities emerge. The built environment has a fantastic range of careers and jobs. Consider which areas are more recession proof. Currently these may be sustainability, or BIM (Building Information Modelling), or web based technologies. These are areas that will be more in demand post recession

Be Resilient: Think long term. Arguably its short-termism that has led us into the current mess. Develop a personal and organisational resilience plan that looks at improvement over the long term. Be better when we emerge from this recession.

Stand in the future and observe the industry in 2016/2019 – climate change will not be ‘put on hold’ during the recession – so do you have a route to zero mapped out?

Be Visible: Find a group you can network with, learn from and share with. For me in the past, this has included quality circles, benchmarking clubs or industry improvement groups. More recently, I am a part of many on line forums. Themed networks such as Green Drinks can provide similar opportunities. 

Get a profile inside and outside of the organisation. This is easy to do through web 2,(eg Linkedin) but what does your facebook, myspace, twitter really say about you?  What do you really find out when you google your name, or your organisation. 

Be helped and help: Find a mentor or work with a mentee

And read …  the Empty Raincoat for example

And help is out there.

Supportive resources I am involved with include:

• Mentoring courses (funded)

• Start up support. For example, through Constructing the Future we are offering a free set of modules for women in Lancashire considering startup business or self employment.

• Route to Zero. This is designed to help in the development of resilience strategies

• Surviving the Recession. This is a one-day Evolution-IP survival course for businesses in development

• Green training. It is useful to get a environmental top up to your qualifications (for example the Green Register or others)

• Construction Agency. This is a planned employee/employer agency service for Lancashire that uses RSS, mobile web and Twitter to ‘keep jobs local’ (To be launched mid / late March, but follow @cagency for updates)

For more on the above please feel free to email or twitter or leave comments below and if you found this post useful please share with others …. AddThis Social Bookmark Button:

twittering on the edge of chaos?

It seems everyone is trying to understand and analyse  twitter at the moment, so after nearly a year of twittering , here are my thoughts:

Perhaps it is a little more than coincidence that Twitter has been named after our feathered friends,  as it is very close, in my mind, to the classic edge of chaos example of how birds flock.  

Birds flock  through following a set of unwritten, uncommunicated simple  rules.  Flocking birds have no manual, no procedures to follow, no dos and do nots, no bird etiquette, they just do it , and do it by instinct and in spectacular fashion. 

And they all do it. (Have you ever seen one bird turn the wrong way at the wrong time to create a mangle of free-fall bird feathers – no, never).  

And so it is, could, should? be with Twitter

It works at so many different levels for so many different purposes, and here is its power, it is all things to all people and brilliant for it, and we twitters like them boids, don’t need lists of dos and donts, guidance, rules or twitterquette, we just do it,  we just twitter.  (Maybe this is why many say they just ‘dont get it’ – there is a sense of jumping in and using twitter and see what emerges, rather than a calculated action plan) 

Indeed it is the relationships between the agents (us as twitters, or the birds) and the scope for emergence are is so important in keeping twitter at the edge of chaos.

Chaos theory is often illustrated through the butterfly affect ( a butterflies wings flapping in Chile can cause storms in Europe, a concept I have called small in large out – SILO)   Again Twitter demonstrates this concept incredibly well – one tweet  can spread through the global twitter community probably faster than any other form of communication known. (eg news stories broken through twitter) 

So is twitter really an application of complexity theory in practice, a demonstration of the ‘edge of chaos’ paradigm?   I think so, and  having long used the concepts of complexity theory (simple rules, agents, relationships, SILO and emergence) to allow management system processes and procedures to become so much more effective and efficient, (eg where many ‘control’ procedures can be replaced with a few simple rules)  I see twitter applications having a future within management systems, just not sure exactly how yet!

But … others more learned in the complexity / chaos theory may like to comment, agree  or correct me ?

Oh, and since tweeting I have, through twitter,  purchased a chicken coop, won and let work contracts, helped others win work,  learnt so much, made new friends and contacts, been inspired and shocked, eaten humble pie once or twice and hopefully shared something of use in return.  Fellow twitters have shared births, deaths, job losses and job finds, sadness, anger and great happiness ….. Brilliant.