A few weeks ago, I attended my second roundtable discussion in Durham hosted by Orangutan Swing. (My first is covered here.) The beauty of their talks is that they gather people together without imposing a strong agenda and allow conversations to surface naturally. They just asked us to bring a personal totem and to be prepared to talk about work [or, to be more specific, they asked us to talk about "(re)Work".]. We don’t normally find a solution, but that’s not really the goal.
The process is what’s fascinating. Meeting the person sitting next to you. Seeing a table full of totems. Talking about work with total strangers. Finding sometihng in common that surprises you.
Here are a few observations from our second meeting:
The "see no evil" monkey in the middle of the photo, above, was one of the most popular totems. It represented different things for different people: anxiety over a new job, the pressure of starting a new business or the fear of leaving behind something familiar for something more undefined. During the course of the conversation, we realized that change has set up permanent shop in our lives and our workplaces.
Your work environment directly affects what you do.
We were sitting in a circular assortment of office chairs in Bull City Coworking, a new space that has high ceilings, lofts, closed meeting rooms and lots of light. We wondered what would happen to workers in a bank or investment firm if they moved to a more open, space. Would they panic over loss of privacy? Would they collaborate more? Would their pecking order and hierarchies become less important?
My favorite quote from the session:
We’re not adapting to change, we’re aligning with it.
I loved this quote. Change can be really overwhelming. And it can make you feel powerless to stop it. The truth is, you are. Aligning yourself to change can be as simple as having a focus and sticking with it. When change happens, you only need to pay attention to how it affects your focus. When you are aligned with change, you aren't resisting it. And you aren't getting left behind, either.
The more diverse the group, the more you find you have in common.
This is a really good message for writers. We are typically given lots of research and target audience data and we sift through it for insights. I think we were pleasantly surprised to find common concerns or beliefs in our group. Our differences bring out nuances in writing. But our similarities are the real foundation for creating.
Thinking about it another way - the process of writing is the process of giving. And when we give, it helps to know what people actually want. Most people want to be respected, liked, challenged, informed, entertained and inspired. That's what we have in common. The nuances of the way we do that come from our differences.
Looking forward to the next roundtable.