I’ve been asking this same question over and over in my head and I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave over organisations to sprinkle magical silver fairy unicorn dust to inspire everyone to see what we are seeing and to open their minds to life long learning. Sharing, asking, learning, thinking, reflecting and building something for themselves, their organisation, their community and society.
Later this year, I’ll be speaking at the Change in the Age of Disruption Conference in Sydney and for those who know me, know that public speaking scares me at the best of times. There will be added pressure because of the calibre of speakers who will be presenting but I have to put my fears aside and go back to the basics. I need to talk about my compelling story.
When I think back to the crux of what inspired me with social learning, I can put it down to one thing. An incredible desire to always continually learn and experience new things. Sometimes naively, I agree to everything just to give something a go – whether it be positive or negative. It’s the idea of having to go through it and to the other end that I find appealing.
Now when I was younger, these experiences were many and varied – they usually involved some adrenalin rushing sport or adventure but the older I get, the pursuits are more intellectual, cultural, personal and sedate. Knitting, for example.
Who would have thought that knitting, the one craft I have done for over 37 years would have provided me with my compelling story?
Part of me feels cheated that it’s not been something like being a female base jumper; a highly trained Olympic athlete; a world renown novelist; a movie producer; an astronaut or some such.
Oh well, if knitting is my thing, then so be it.
Let me explain.
I believe organisations have a lot to learn from knitters.
Knitters are a community of men and women who love to learn
To them, they can follow one pattern of knitting but then vary the yarn, the needle sizes, the stitch pattern to create something entirely different. From one pattern, you can have a myriad of different options and along with it, the story of how that knitter recreated (hacked) the original pattern to create something entirely unique, customised and personalised to suit their needs.
Knitters love to show and narrate their work openly
Do a Google search on knitting blogs and you’ll see thousands of websites, blogs and YouTube channels all dedicated on how to better improve their craft. Search on iTunes and see just as many audio and video podcasts of knitters sharing their patterns, content – and stories.
Knitters learn with each other, through each other in communities that are in person or online
My biggest learning curve in knitting was when I joined a ‘Stitch and Bitch’ group. Having a group of people whom I could learn from, ask a question, show my work to receive feedback and new ideas was instrumental in improving my knitting skills. Not only could I do this in person, there were online communities where I could seek assistance when I needed it.
Knitters know that everyone (regardless of skill level) all have something to share, to learn with (and from)
To them, the tools that allow for connections to occur (their Instagram accounts, their blogs, their iPads, their podcasts, their Pinterest accounts) are as important as the tools of their craft (their yarn, needles, patterns). The tools are merely an extension to better their craft.
Knitters see failures as learning
Sure there are times when they need to ‘frog’ their work (Frogging means unravelling their work. It’s called frogging because you have to ‘rip it, rip it, rip it’). It’s not failure if you start again. It’s learning. It means that something is not working for you, so you change it. You can change it at the start, you can change it in the middle or you can change it at the end even after you have fully completed your knitted piece. Regardless, there will be times that how it looks like in your head is not what comes out at the end in your hands and you think about all those wasted hours. You can choose to accept this and be tormented every time you look at your disgusting knitted piece; or you can discard it in your knitting basket never to be looked at again. Or, like many, you can use it as an opportunity to recreate it into something else by frogging it and coming up with a completely new design. Ultimately, it comes down to you – and knitters accept the choice you make.
Knitters take risks
One time at our knitting group, one of my fellow knitters was knitting in the round. She was going to travel to Iceland and knitted the most luxurious Fair Isle knit. She knitted it in the round (meaning the jumper was seamless and knitted from the top down). We exclaimed our delight when she finished it and we ran our hands over the yarn loving the softness and the texture. We praised her for the work and encouraged her to try it on so that we can see what it looked like.
Imagine our surprise when she said that she wanted to make it into a cardigan! Everyone looked at her curiously until we realised the enormity of her suggestion! What she was suggesting was taking a pair of scissors and CUTTING the jumper down the front – otherwise known as “Steeking”. (The one thing to send dread and horror in all knitters is having to cut through their knitting with a pair of scissors – see 1:23 in the following video -eek!). So we all drew a breath, the scissors came out and we watched as she cut through her work. The atmosphere was palpable. I swear my heart stopped and every snip seemed like a life time eternity to get through. However, she survived. We survived. We learned something together and it turned out that it wasn’t as bad as we thought. All was right in the world so we had our coffee and cake to celebrate and a steeking story to share with our friends in the future.
So can you see how organisations can learn about social learning from knitters?
Replace the word, “knitters” with “employees” and “craft” with “work” and patterns/yarns/needles with “enterprise and open social networking tools” and “patterns” with “organisational change and transformation programs” and you will see just how aligned that the new way of working and learning seamlessly plays out.
Maybe the silver fairy unicorn dust is not magical at all. It’s organisations simply looking at what inspires everyone with their passion, hobbies and interests that fire up their imagination, creativity and openness to learning and then applying these to meaningful work. Something that uses their own unique skills, experiences and insights as well as access to tools that allow these connections to occur – all without any underlying agendas such as politicking, power or measurement.
A big thank you to Lisa Noble (@NobleKnits) who inspired this blog post and her wonderful post Open For/To Learning . Through her idea of having a global network of knitting knitting a QR Code for one of her conference proposals, it inspired me to recreate my own compelling story for the Change in the Age of Disruption Conference.
— Lisa Noble (@nobleknits2) May 31, 2015