Great things happen when people meet

Excitement, connection and commitments to action were the theme of the first #responsiveorg unconference


“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” Mahatma Gandhi

Great things can be achieved when people are working together to achieve a common purpose. We saw the start of this at the Responsive Organization event in London on 10th May, where over 100 people contributed their Saturday to talk about how to accelerate the shift of organizations from the structures of Industrial Age to those that take advantage of the new, connected world.

Collectively, we learned a huge amount from one another. One of the main things we learned was that we all still have more to both learn and teach. To paraphrase a great quote, all the thinking, examples and approaches are there in the network already, they’re just not yet well distributed.

Here are the main three things I learned from the event:

  1. Passion and purpose alone can get you far: It was humbling to see how much time people were prepared to dedicate to the cause and the range of people that engaged. Attendees were a mix of everything from one-person organizations to blue-chips, from major consultancies to niche organizations, all unified by the common idea that they wanted to see organizations be more responsive to the newly connected world.. Given that the whole event was arranged without any formal marketing (largely through word of mouth and people’s networks), the number of people and their passion for the topic was fantastic.
  2. When people have the opportunity to express themselves, you find the real opportunities and challenges: We walked into the unconference with some theories of what the people in the movement might need in order for it to take off, what their challenges were and where they were seeing success. The unconference format was a great way of testing these theories as you heard people talk about their passions, what they were trying to do and the things they thought were needed. It validated some the theories (e.g. a toolkit for helping an organization become responsive, the need to broadly share examples of success and how that success was achieved) and rejected others (e.g. the need for highly specific tooling outside of what already exists in the broader world).
  3. No-one has the whole answer, but collectively we hold all the pieces: It was very interesting to hear that no-one I spoke to on the day could come up with an example of an organization that has successfully adapted to all of the shifts that the manifesto covers. It was even more interesting to hear that, collectively, we could talk about examples of organizations that had gone through one or more shifts. The power of the Responsive Organization network therefore seems to rest in enabling people to have as many pieces of the puzzle as they need in order to move their own organizations forwards. The more genuine the stories (case studies from vendors attracted particular criticism) the better.
  4. There are now stronger ties between the bright green dots. We can use this to attract others: The group at the London event was self-selecting, due to the way the event was put together and the fact we held it on a Saturday. That didn’t stop people travelling some incredible distances (props to @thismuchweknow whom I think holds the record here) to get there. What we ended up with was a collection of influencers. What we now need to work out is how to connect those influencers with those that can be influenced and can enact the changes we envision (green dots, but not so green that they’d come to an event like this)
  5. Discussion -> Desire -> Action: During the day, the conversations flowed from exchanges of ideas towards practical execution. The overwhelming sentiment at the end of the day was “This was great, what can I do about it next?” I have put some suggestions for that here, but the network has already put some ideas forward and committed to some actions.

Agree with these observations? Have different ones? Share them through #responsiveorg.

Here’s to the next one.