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Musings on descriptions, labels, and identity in the early morning

As I was thinking ahead to my session on Appreciative Inquiry this morning for FacWeek, I reflected on my plan to ask people about their understanding of the term, AI, as it would become the foundation for the work we were going to do together.

The Back Story

At Positive Pivot: A Global Virtual AI Jam, the conference I attended over the weekend with over 170 people from around the world, we were all asked that question, what does Appreciative Inquiry mean to each of us. The answers formed a giant Venn diagram with both overlapping circles and some concentric circles too. Some people saw it exactly the same way, other people saw it rather differently.

As I thought more about this experience, I wondered,

  • How do people come to know who we are—really understand us?
  • What do we reveal about ourselves (consciously and unconsciously) through words, stories, drawings, and pictures?

I remembered an activity from a class I had taken earlier in the week. We were asked to make a list of adjectives that described ourselves. I kept wanting to add nouns to my list of adjectives, which included, sunny, cheerful, determined, persistent, creative, thoughtful, reflective, caring, enthusiastic, high energy…

So, of course, I began a list of nouns that give quite a full picture of who I believe myself to be. I then started to think of representations of myself that I have used in my work—in drawings, on websites, and more.

 

  • What do you understand about me from the pictures you see here?
  • What more do you learn about me by reading the labels I have given myself?
  • You can see that I have smudged out some words… Are you curious about that?
  • What if you only saw half these words… or just one or two? What would you think?

Depending on how we meet, what will I choose to reveal to you? What might I leave out of our conversation because I’m unsure about the stories you’ll imagine about me, or maybe I don’t (yet?) have the trust or relationship to share more fully (remember those smudged words)?

I’m nuanced and complex not just complicated. And so is everyone else.

How do I ensure that you understand that? Maybe more importantly, how do I make sure that I remember that about others?

How does what we share with each other create our conversations and relationships? Are labels ever helpful to us?  In what ways might they get in the way of our understanding of each other ? I have ideas and opinions about this. What’s your thinking? Please let me know!

Stepping into the Unexpected… Almost Reluctantly

Please take a walk down memory lane with me. Reflect, for a moment, on your professional and personal growth experiences over the years. Have you ever felt that you weren’t quite sure you wanted to do an activity or exercise suggested by a trainer, facilitator, or coach? It doesn’t happen to me too often. (What happens more often is having done the activity, I wonder about its purpose, importance, and usefulness.)

I’m currently taking an online course in learning how to draw in new and different new ways. I am really enjoying it and I think the teacher is very good. Those of you that know me, know that that is high praise indeed, as course design, development, delivery, and evaluation are my bailiwicks, and it tends to make me a hypersensitive (hypercritical?) participant.

In the second lesson of the course, we were asked to do an exercise and I hesitated. No doubt this is due, in part to my curious nature/the realization that I am a “Questioner” in Gretchen Rubin’s work on Four Tendencies. And, while I could conceptually see the POSSIBLE use of the task, it was stepping into a process I don’t often do—pure fantasy product creation.

So I hemmed and I hawed, and yet I didn’t want to step into the next lesson because if a course has a good design, I shouldn’t be skipping anything along the way, is my thinking. So I abandoned myself to the experience and I am glad I did! The exercise asked me to engage in thinking totally differently—and that was the beauty of it! The assignment was to make my ideal pan. I do love pens though I have never imagined what the perfect pen would be. I made the time to delight in a bit of whimsy and brainstorming… after the initial doubts about whether I could actually do it. This darling is the result! It is fun, practical, and incorporates my love of the undersea world.

So what about you?

How do you engage with your learning? Do you (generally) trust in what has been designed and developed or do you question throughout the experience? I do both! And I will tell you with no shame, that I will never say, and do not appreciate hearing, “Trust in the process.” If a teacher, trainer, facilitator, or coach can’t tell me why I’m doing what I’m doing, where it came from (tied to what earlier content and/or processes or the overall gestalt of the learning), and how I can integrate what I’m learning into the present or future learning of the course, work or life, I outta there!

What’s your thinking about your learning experiences?

With the shift to so much learning online there’s been a proliferation, if not a glut, of opportunities… some are worth their weight in gold (so to speak) and others are mere imposters of what learning is meant to be… I have learned to be in touch with the creators and ask the questions  I need answered/do my due diligence because I know how I learn best. What about you?

My time, energy, and resources are too precious—I guard them well.