Gifts

What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Paul of Tarsus – First Letter to the Corinthians

Count your gifts: knowledge, skills, dispositions and attitudes; assets, wealth, health, time; places; people.

  • Where did they come from?
  • What are you going to use them for?
  • Are you going to leave more of them, or less?
  • What are you going to give, and who is it for?

Seth Godin on fear and reassurance

The way [of handling fear] that doesn’t work is reassurance. Reassurance doesn’t work because you need an infinite amount of it. Someone can give you reassurance for five minutes and then ten minutes later you go “Ooohh no no no.” So the number of times that you need to be told by someone you trust and respect that you’re going to be fine is too high to even ask for it.

For me, the alternative is generosity. That is an excellent answer to fear. That if you are doing this on behalf of someone you care about, the fear takes a backseat. So if you want to figure out how to make books, go to a charity you care about and make a book for them, because now your fear feels selfish. If you want to figure out how to make marketing work, go and market for an organisation that you believe in. If you can find a lonely person and make them unlonely, a disconnected person and make them feel connected, you can make a practice of that. And the upside is it helps you walk straighter and stand taller.

Seth Godin – on Love Your Work with David Kadavy

Leg ups

It’s easy to recruit people or find partners if you lower your standards, but you almost certainly shouldn’t – apart from anything else, when will you stop?

A more useful approach is asking what you can do to help people get to the starting line. You might:

  • Get better at finding to the right people at the right time;
  • Be clearer about what attitudes and skills people need to bring with them if they want to work with you – and how they can demonstrate that they have them, and how they might gain them if they don’t;
  • Be clearer about the value that you offer to people working for you or with you – communicate it well, and make sure you keep your promises;
  • Think carefully about how you could be more accessible and flexible – and where you can’t or won’t be;
  • Learn to train and manage people twice as well as you do now – and think about how you might train people outside your organisation – what could you make and share?

Who do you most want to give a leg up?

The hard thing about soft skills

The hard thing about the ‘soft’ skills of courtesy and consideration is that they’re only partly skills. They’re far more about our attitude: how much we value other people and their purposes and feelings, and the interest and care that we show them as we go about our business.

Consistently showing up for people – seeing, hearing and serving them – is far harder than going about our business focused only on our business. And there is a cost: it takes time and energy and attention to engage with and serve others when your ‘real’ job is doing something else. But it’s worth the time and energy, because this is the right way to be – whether we’re dealing with customers or the CEO or the person who cleans your office.

This means that ‘soft’ skills require us to be better at what we do, so that we have the time and energy to spare when we need them – you need something to be generous with. And if this is important to us, we need to do more than show up in the moment: we need to choose to manage our work and commitments so that an attitude of generous service is built into everything we do.

This is much harder than just doing your job.

Much harder, and much better – now and in the long run.

Creative Commons resources – open source literacy webinar

Note: Links to resources are at the bottom. The footnotes are worth reading.

On Thursday I attended ‘Creative Commons Basics’, a webinar hosted by the Global Reading Network. It was very good.

Cable Green, Director of Open Education at Creative Commons, made an excellent presentation about the basics of Creative Commons licensing, followed by Q&A. I’ve done a fair bit of reading about CC licenses, but the clarity of the presentation and the texture of the examples shared really helped me to get a better understanding of how CC works.

Here are some highlights:

Education as sharing

  • Among other things, education is fundamentally about sharing.
  • Knowledge is an interesting kind of public good: once shared it’s non-excludable (it can’t be taken away) and it’s non-rivalrous (you having it doesn’t stop me from having it).* We didn’t get into how knowledge benefits from network effects (your knowledge can make mine more valuable), but that’s worth mentioning too.**

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Thomas Jefferson

A moral imperative

Given the non-rivalrous nature of knowledge, Cable argued for the moral imperative to share it: if we can help people by sharing knowledge at (next to) no cost to us – something the internet enables – then we’re morally obliged to do so***

The internet enables; copyright forbids

  • Almost all educational resources are created digitally (text, audio, video)
  • The internet enables the sharing of digital resources at effectively no cost****
  • Copyright restricts or forbids sharing and therefore, Cable argues, restricts education either directly or indirectly (see below)…

Free as in libre

Cable discussed the key distinction between free as in gratis – at no cost (the traditional internet description of this is “free as in, ‘free beer.'”) – and free as in ‘libre‘ or ‘at liberty’.

The difference is important: there are lots of resources available online that are free (no cost), but copyrighted, meaning that ownership or use is

  • precarious, in the sense that the copyright holder can revoke the right to use it, and has legal means to enforce their ownership
  • rigid, meaning that users don’t have the freedom to adapt and re-purpose the original material, or to give it away.

The clearest examples of these things are probably in the world of proprietary software where the source code isn’t accessible to users, and where licensing agreements expressly forbid editing and sharing with others.

The 5 Rs of Open Education

The antidote that Open Education offers to these restrictions are the five Rs (courtesy of David Wiley), enabled by Creative Commons licensing:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage);
  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video);
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language);
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup);
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend).

Read more about the 5Rs here.

Creative Commons Licenses

CC licenses are a free, open public framework intended to make it easy for creators to share their works widely while still retaining ownership of the work – that is to say, without transferring them entirely to the public domain (i.e. giving up their status as owners of the work).

CC Licenses are made up of combination of the following yes/no options:

  • BY: If you use it, you have to attribute it to the original author in the new text. More on attribution here.
  • SA: Share Alike means that you have to share any derivative works under the same license as the original
  • NC: Non-commercial. You can redistribute it as long as you don’t make a profit doing so. Note that charging for work to cover reasonable reproduction costs and overheads (e.g. getting the work printed by a commercial printer and selling it for the cost of printing) has been ruled acceptable practice by a court in New York. Note also that this does not prevent others from making a profit from a service based on the CC:NC work (e.g. by charging for a course using the work, or a performance of the work).
  • ND: No derivatives. You are allowed to use the work for any purpose, but are not allowed to re-mix or change the work in any way.

Notes:

  • For any of these licenses you are not required to contact the licensor for permission to use it
  • These restrictions are not binding on the holder of the copyright – that is to say, if you share your own work under a CC: NC ND license, you are free to use it however you wish, including making a profit from the work and remixing it: “The NonCommercial limitation applies to licensed uses only and does not restrict use by the licensor.”
  • Note also that once a work is (legitimately) released under a CC license, the license is irrevocable – the work can’t be “un-CCed”… but the creator can make a different (revised) version of the work and keep it under any restrictions they wish.
  • Materials shared with any kind of CC: ND license do not fulfill the criteria of the 5Rs outlined above.

A Hierarchy of Free-ness

Credit: http://discourse.col.org CC BY NC

Links and Resources

Cable finished off by sharing a set of links to resources or interesting use cases of CC. Here they are:

Wrapping Up

Phew. Thanks again to Cable Green of Creative Commons and the Global Reading Network for an excellent seminar. In the spirit of Creative Commons and Open Education Cable is sharing the presentation under a CC license – I’ll share a link to video and slides if and when I have one!

Update: Here’s a .pdf of the slides form the session:

*I say “an interesting type of public good” because until it’s been shared it’s scarce and excludable.

**There are negative network effects to some knowledge too (you having them makes mine less valuable)

*** We didn’t get into cases where the fact that people have paid for resources makes them more useful – more likely that they’ll have an impact because a better quality of attention will be paid to them so that they’re more likely to be understood deeply, used and spread – and make it more likely that more resources will be created. Seth Godin is doing interesting experiments around this with the combination of his blog and free materials , podcast, and the Akimbo workshops.

****At no cost unless, in some cases, making them free reduces their value.*

The soft option

Your desire to be generous to others is a great motivator to excellence: if you’re serious about ensuring that the externalities of your project are consistently positive, you’re going to need to be doubly good at what you do.

You need emotional energy and time to spare to listen well, to be gracious under pressure, to be the kind of employer or customer that helps your team or partners to do their best work.

It takes discipline to do this kind of emotional labour day in, day out. You need to be clear about what you’re doing and how and why, plan for it, and be deliberate about doing it consistently. You need to find ways to articulate your values to people inside and outside your project.

You need to be hard-headed about being soft-hearted.

Externalities

We’re familiar with the externalities of industrial production and consumption. They’re fairly predictable, and often visible. Even air pollution, the silent killer, is usually visible when it happens, before the poison spreads. It’s a perfect example of a negative externality – something put into the world that everyonepays for, not just the producer or the consumer.

What are the externalities of your project, program or product? What invisible outputs do you have?

  • What does your way of working with users, customers or clients say that your words leave out? How do they see you seeing them? Do they leave feeling smaller, more pressured, less competent – or with a greater belief in their ability to get better and to make a difference? (As you teach that vital knowledge and share those crucial skills, what else are you teaching?)

  • As you manage your team, how do they feel when they leave the office? What do they take home with them? What are your externalities for their families, friends and neighbourhoods?

    • What about your suppliers – the people who serve you as you serve others. What externalities do you have for the people in the photocopy shop, the electrician who comes to the office, or for your cleaners?

  • What about your suppliers – the people who serve you as you serve others. What externalities do you have for the people in the photocopy shop, the electrician who comes to the office, or for your cleaners?

Not polluting – ‘do no evil’ – isn’t nearly enough.

Contact

Next time you read an article, listen to a podcast, watch a program that you like – why don’t you get in touch with whoever made it?

Not just the person who was in it – the ones we normally notice – but the people who made it too. Drop them an email, or even that hand written note that you always think about but never get around to.

Why did you like it? Is there something you had a (generous, non-snarky) question about, or something (of genuine potential interest to them) that you can share?

Try it – make it a light touch. It feels funny at first but gets ever-easier. They’re a person like you, and they’ll probably reply, which will probably be fun.*

*You have permission to stop after twenty unreplied-to contact attempts.**
** To different people.

Conflicting values

If you keep butting up against the same problem with a colleague – a problem you think you’ve fixed, but that comes up repeatedly in slightly different variations – it could be a sign of conflicting values.

Values conflicts often seem to arise over:

  • Money (fees, salaries and expenses)
  • Time (working hours, punctuality)
  • Effort and focus (work ethic, productivity, accountability)
  • How we treat people (respect, courtesy)

If it is a values conflict (and it’s worth double checking that it’s not a case of your own poor management), you can be pretty sure that it’s going to keep on appearing until you do some deep work to address it.

These conflicts are tricky to handle because they’re often both emotion-laden and subjective. That is, we’re all pretty sure we’re right, and we’re indignant about being wronged – and our feelings of indignation double when realise how the other side of the argument perceives the things we say and do.

Some questions for working on values conflicts:

  • What’s the history here? How has this problem shown up in the past, and what seems to be the root cause?
  • What shortcoming of yours might they think is the root cause?
  • How is everyone feeling about the issue? How will that affect the way they communicate?
  • Assume for a moment that they have the same values as you do on this. What might make them act this way?
  • What information are you missing (or failing to recognise the importance of) that would help you make better decisions here?
  • What information do they have that might help you?
  • What factors are you assigning importance to that they don’t know about or don’t recognise, and how can you close those gaps?
  • Get advice – think particularly about people who might be able to fill in the missing information, or give perspective on how each party feels and why – and point out to you when you’re being unreasonable?
  • Where does the power lie in this conflict? Does this affect how you should behave?
  • If you’re convinced there is a conflict in values – check that you’ve consistently demonstrated the value in question in your treatment of others. What do you need to change?
  • How can you talk about the value, sharing information and telling stories that weave it more deeply into your organisational culture?
  • How will this affect how you choose new colleagues, suppliers or partners?
  • Where are the lines you’re not prepared to cross?
  • Are there people – respected colleagues, board members – that you can involve in the process in a way that takes the heat out of the situation, or reduces the extent to which you are seen as responsible (or are responsible) for the point of conflict?
  • If (when?) you make a mistake in addressing this, how can you make sure that it’s a mistake on the side of kindness, generosity and trust?

Just in time (2): “I’ll just…”

There’s another kind of just in time. This is the kind when you lie to yourself: “I’ll just squeeze this extra thing in, and I’ll get there just in time.”

Pro tip: things that start with “I’ll just…” cost more than you think.

“I’ll just…” jobs usually end up taking longer, or they leave you dissatisfied because you didn’t do them well, or mean that you have to rush the next thing (like getting out the door), that you forget something, that you arrive late or flustered and on the back foot, that your thoughts and emotions are busy with something else. That you miss possibilities.

Next time you find yourself with ten minutes before you have to go and think “I’ll just write one more email” or “I’ll just check my messages”, count first what it’s actually going to cost in terms of time and emotional energy:

  • Is this a job that you can finish well and feel good about in two minutes (which probably means five to ten)?
  • Is it a job that you can leave – and feel happy about leaving – half done?
  • Is it worth the cost of energy and concentration and the likely rush later to squeeze it in?
  • Who is it going to cost? It will always cost you, and will usually also cost whoever you’re showing up for next.

Try this instead, for yourself and for them:

“I’ll just… leave ten minutes early, and enjoy the walk.”