As I stumbled towards progress with the Dare Conference (just five weeks to go!), I asked many friends for feedback, which was both uncomfortable and rewarding. The feedback that I found most difficult to take—versions of, “here’s what isn’t working”—was the most helpful for figuring out what to do next. After I’d tried several convoluted revisions, Rachel McAlpine suggested the strap line, “people skills for digital workers,” which captures the spirit of the event perfectly. We’re now in a better place to convince people to come–I’m looking at you–by explaining how developing people skills will help us get better outcomes. Here’s what I learned from the process, including answers to common questions. Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback: you rock.
I’ve organized web community events for three years. I started in a Shoreditch basement with “Content Strategy, Manhattan Style” in 2010 (video), organized Content Strategy Forum London in 2011 with Destry Wion and Randall Snare, started London Content Strategy Meetup with Richard Ingram (over 1300 members and 18 events so far), and together with Brain Traffic brought the US content strategy conference Confab to London in March 2013.
I’ve spoken to hundreds of people about their work and why they come to events. I’ve learned that while almost everyone gets something from community events, the people who benefit most are ready for change when they show up.
- GDS retrospective directive via Sarah Richards.
When people ask me for case studies we can learn from, I tell them about the Government Digital Service (GDS), the people behind the UK government’s single website, GOV.UK. As Tim O’Reilly put it, “there isn’t a single organization on the planet who wouldn’t benefit from studying their work”. They have an agile, cross-discipline approach, they share what they learn (and what they screw up), and their mission is to build digital services by transforming government to be “digital by default”. The people I know at GDS are generous with their time, always happy to sit down over coffee or participate in a community event. They’re leading the way by doing awesome work.
In Episode 14 of the Together London Podcast, I talk to Nishant Kothary
about using soft skills to make things happen, how our brains deceive us,
and why understanding other people is crucial for our success.
As digital people we fix things. We like to go in and help by fixing the problem and making it go away. This is really holding us back, I think. Because so many of the problems that we face today can’t be fixed by you or I fixing some copy, or writing some code, or changing the design. Actually, the problems that companies are facing are cultural.
And so, to actually help instead of just fixing, we need to start making stuff with people. And that is risky because we have to let go of our expertise and our control, and say, “I am OK with just trying this out and making something together with you, and realizing that it might fail.”