On Transformational Leadership: Remembering Steve Jobs

Stay hungry; Stay foolish. ~Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

I’ve been quiet lately on the blogging and social media fronts–attending to a number of  matters, including over-due computer tune-ups, an intensive job search, and in between, some well-earned self- and family-maintenance.

But it’s impossible to hear the news of Steve Job’s passing, without marking it here. If I ever questioned the value or purpose of blogging and social networking in my own life, I think it became clear to me last night, when I was able to vicariously share online the outpouring of sadness over Steve Jobs’ death and the admiration so many feel for the legacy he leaves behind.  Last night, I keenly felt the gift my blog and social networking presence on Twitter remain to me—by being able to avail myself so quickly to such an immediate public platform—lifting up my own voice, within such a connected, often vibrant community– in praise of such a sheer creative force. And in so doing, to do my small part to observe and carry on, all that legacy means.

It was a moment where whatever our differences, many of us came together to salute the spirit of innovation, which Steve Jobs represents. And more than that—the courage and dignity by which he faced his own failures and mortality—how he saw these conditions, as the best drivers to making our time here mean something…and as a challenge to each one of us, to continue to live up to our own personal gifts.

For me, Jobs’ life and work represent many of the themes I’ve been exploring personally  and at this blog, especially on transformational leadership, to date, mainly from a technical writer’s vantage point, but with implications for whatever paths we respectively travel.

I take as a strong inspiration, Jobs’ integrative vision:

It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.

Until last night, I’d never heard in its entirety Jobs’ 2005 Commencement address at Stanford University, but I ‘m glad I can refer to it, as a writer, and much more so as a person, for those times which inevitably arise for all of us, when we need the reminder to remain true to our own voices.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Boston Linchpin Meetups: An Innovation System, in Motion

In my last post, I mentioned how Steven Johnson (in Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation) explores the recurring patterns in environments that are most likely to stimulate creativity and innovation.

He describes these environments as open innovation systems–that is, fluid networks, where we meet with others from various backgrounds, share hunches, and ultimately combine our respective ideas, in new ways.

I can’t think of a better example of this kind of dynamic environment, than the Boston Linchpin Meetups, which gather monthly, at the Burlington Public Library, followed by a post-meeting beer and wine drinking tradition.

Inspired by the book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, by Seth Godin, the Meetups offer a mastermind roundtable, where participants can discuss a project and contribute to the success of others, through the direct exchange of ideas.

Everything discussed is confidential, in a supportive atmosphere.

On May 3rd, the Eagle Tribune newspaper will take a look at the future of the publishing industry, in a brainstorming session.

Special thanks to the event’s organizers.


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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Creative Spaces: Where Process & Serendipity Meet

This past winter, when I was preparing for my presentation on the New England tavern’s similarities to social media (see Social Media 18th Century and Today), I found Steven Johnson’s excellent TED talk, on open innovation systems.

The author of Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson explores the recurring patterns that make environments more creative and innovative.

Fluid Networks and Creativity

Just as an idea represents a series of new connections between neurons in our respective brains, so too, Johnson suggests, are some environments more likely to stimulate these new configurations.

He describes the architecture of the creative space as a fluid network, where people from different backgrounds and interests can get together, allowing their ideas to mingle. He goes on to say that good ideas have long incubation periods, known as the slow hunch, which may take years to evolve. A good example, Johnson elsewhere cites, is the Worldwide Web, which reportedly Tim Berners-Lee worked on at the back of his mind, for at least ten years.

According to Johnson, innovation and deep thinking take place in environments, similar to the seventeenth or eighteenth-century coffeehouse or tavern. With the increased connectivity, we’re more likely to borrow from others’ hunches, combine them with our own, and over time, form something new.

Intentional Serendipity

Johnson’s talk made me recall one job setting, where as part of my interview, the product manager proudly gave me a tour of the company’s newly designed office. The office provided a large open space and every detail of the physical layout was designed to reinforce the Agile methodology.

In that open space, the various members on the product development team, with reps from each discipline (including technical writers) met daily, for their SCRUM status.

The thing that struck me the most about that setting was the intentionality of the office design…The entire environment was architected from the start to invite the kinds of unpredictable collisions that lead to innovation.

It represents to me process and serendipity working together, and is probably what Johnson meant when he concluded: “Chance favors the connected mind.”

Fostering Open Innovation Systems

So, what environments have most inspired your own creativity? Do you agree with Johnson that innovation is rarely a single moment of inspiration, but rather the collision of smaller hunches over time, within fluid networks? How can we foster open spaces and other hunch-cultivating mechanisms, within our own organizations?

Finally, is it possible to connect and protect ideas at the same time? What are, (if any), the acceptable tradeoffs? (In the O’Reilley Webcast on Information Security and Social Networks, Ben Rothke provides excellent tips on finding this balance.)

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