Due to family events that rather caught me by surprise, I couldn’t attend the Glass Wall session at the ODN conference in person. But that turned out to be quite fortuitous. These same events meant I had to stay at home, but that also that I could ‘follow’ the gist of the conversation via twitterfall, using the #C21L, and experience it, from afar, via the glass wall of Social Media.
So at about 11.15am, which was roughly when the actual ‘Goldfish Bowl’ discussion was due to begin, I sat down at my kitchen table with my laptop. I was searching for a metaphor of what my experience was like and then it came to me: more I live by the River Thames, near Hampton Court. On the other side of the river, during bank holidays, there is usually a fun fair. On a hot sunny day, when I am in my garden, I can just about hear the din of the dodgems and thrill rides. They fade in and out on the wind across the water – sometimes the weather conditions mean that one moment I can almost hear the individual shouts and exclamations of joy and terror and in the next, for some reason, the noise suddenly fades and is hardly audible at all. In a way, this is a good approximation of what the glass wall experiment was like, as I sat in my own home, at the kitchen table, watching the twitterfall. It was a little like the scene in the film The Matrix, where the guy sits and ‘watches’ the green code streaming down the screen, a translated dream of events in another place. So occasionally, I saw tweets that made some kind of sense of what was happening.
Some were quite vivid and poetic:
How can I connect
without images and words
to bring us together?
Some were pragmatic and cried out for a response:
How could we apply goldfish bowl methodology to the board room?
I was conscious of wanting to reach out and make contact through the glass wall, half aware of what might be going on in the distant room. I was seeing interesting reflections, with which I felt drawn to interact (twitterfall is set up to invite you to respond), but I also felt held back by my own reticence, not wanting to move insensitively, which was kind of inevitable in a way, because it was very hard to know how what I was saying would be received. This meant that at times I had to make judgements about what threads to follow, what and when to reply, and I had no way of knowing if they were good judgements, but I continued to make them anyway. My intention was to reach out and make good contact, and occasionally, I think, I did actually manage it.
I was half a city away, in a different room, glimpsing the dynamic of a chaotic group process, in the midst of a discussion the thrust of which I could only guess at, and yet, I still claim that at times I was able to make real contact with people whom I have never met, though the dark glass.
Tweet: there is a lot to be said and gained by actively listening and two way conversation, feel like an inactive bystander #C21L
My reply: yes understood, and real meeting can be fleeting tho’… it will have to be, sometimes in #C21L
How clever and curious is the human spirit that allows us to make such contact, fleetingly, over such tenuous media? One of the themes of the ODN conference was ‘unleashing the human spirit in organisations’ and on this basis I wouldn’t claim a to have witnessed an immense conflagration, but I did see some sparks, and feel heartened and emboldened by this new half-glimpsed possibility of contact.
Read the first post in this collection: Martin Saville’s A Facilitator’s Eye View. The Glass Wall experiment is part of our wider inquiry to understand the practices of Leadership and Organisation Development in the 21st Century.
This post forms part of a collection about the Glass Wall experiment we developed with Training Journal into what the world of Social Media (SoMe) can teach the world of 21st Century Leadership and Organisational Development. The most recent run of the experiment was at the OD Network Inaugural European Conference. The iteration for ODN Europe was slightly different in its set up, and also involved different people. This collection – Looking Again Through the Glass Wall – reflects the experience of several of those involved, from their perspective.