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You value making a difference in your world. Perspectives, insight and ideas for those brave enough to challenge the world’s messy and complex problems.
What if you never forgot anything? Consider what it would mean to remember every idea you have ever come across, and where it originally came from. Even better, imagine building on that knowledge to identify ideas you want to explore, papers you want to write, research you want to do or projects you want to pursue. Sound far-fetched? Perhaps. But an obscure (to most of us) sociologist named Niklas Luhmann devised a system to support doing exactly this. The essence of the system is absolute simplicity. This isn’t to say that actually building one doesn’t involve some significant complexity and work.
Our notes and systems are how we make sense of the world, of ourselves and of our work. For the most part, my note-taking and information retrieval has lurched from project to project. My method of writing has focused on what I need to produce now. I have a method—or at least a notion of an approach—that works for me, despite largely being internal, abstract and fuzzy. Once I know what I am doing, I can usually get it done, and done well. Until then, precious little of value is likely to be produced. I’m coming to terms with the fact that regardless of my track record to date, this might not be the most efficient way of getting things done.
Notes are the ephemera of our lives. Theoretically short-term and transitory, they have become on-going collections of thoughts, scrawls, screeds and snippets of information. By attempting to manage my notes and maintain my records, I’ve gotten good at two dimensions: keeping track of the minutiae of my day, and hoarding the articles, papers and books that I find interesting and meaningful. Where I struggle is in bridging the gap. Notes are about more than just day-to-day musings and lists. References aren’t just there to look pretty on a shelf (really, they’re not). Finding a way to make and sustain meaningful connections between them is an essential challenge.
One of the essential questions we need to ask in getting to better systems for our notes, thoughts and references is why we have systems in the first place. We live in a constantly connected world; wouldn’t we be better off just Googling for what we need when we need it? The reality is that this is an answer that not only doesn’t satisfy our inner hoarder; it also ignores the very personal and unique forms that our systems take. This isn’t just about capturing materials we get from elsewhere and making sense of them. It is relating to how those materials—and those notes we generate ourselves—define and shape the work that we do.
Many of us strive to get organized. A similar number of us struggle with how to actually do that. For me, it has been the on-going focus of more decades than I care to count, as I try to make sense of the reference materials in my life and organize them in ways that are meaningful, useful and above all accessible. The problem with all systems is that they are subject to entropy; they will decline into disorder over time unless they receive proper care and feeding. Exploring what that looks like is an interesting challenge.
Webinars, resources and events that challenge you to think and encourage you to grow.
10 November 2021 Naming something gives us power over it. When we name something, we are unavoidably adding information to what we’re naming, one that is often self-referential. A name enables us to understand something better. It creates a focal point and a placeholder, defining its importance and making us more sensitive to encountering the…
6 October 2021 Words have power. The words that we choose have a great deal of impact on what we say, and more importantly how our message is received. The average active vocabulary of a typical adult is about 20,000 words. That seems like a lot, and probably more than enough to be getting on…
30 June 2021 Problem solving is a core skill in all walks of life. With it, we can help teams function more cohesively, fly drones on Mars, and develop lifesaving vaccines faster than ever before. Without it, we have difficulty even getting dressed in the morning. Yet, despite its importance, it’s an underserved and underexplored…
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Strategy Making is a personal strategy workshop designed to help you to get clear on your intentions. It guides you in clarifying where you are, taking ownership of your future and defining the path to get there.
Go beyond the short-term focus of time management and just getting things done. Expand your thinking, clarify your priorities and learn the tools you need to make them a reality.